Student Wins Ruling

PUBLISHED: 9:04 PM 23 Mar 2018

State Supreme Court Finally Rules, Colleges Have Duty To Warn Students

The attack that prompted this lawsuit occurred nine years ago.

The highest court in California rules that UCLA had a duty to keep a student safe from being attacked from another student.

Nine years ago, a student at UCLA survived a brutal attack at the hands of another student. While her attacker was found to not be responsible for his actions due to his mental health status, the victim is finally getting justice in the form of a court decision against the college.

According to the highest court in the state of California, UCLA had a duty to keep the student in question safe from the attacker. The suspect at the time was known to have mental health issues, and the school did little to keep other students safe from the threat. In the past, it appeared that the school had little to no responsibility to keep their students safe from known threats. This has suddenly changed. No longer will the school be able to hide behind the excuse that they were monitoring a dangerous individual.

The incident occurred at the Los Angeles campus of the state-owned University of California system. Student Katherine Rosen was taking a chemistry class at the time.

Rosen was stabbed in the classroom by classmate Damon Thompson. This was a student that the school contends they were monitoring closely, but that was not enough.

This occurred in 2009. At the time there was little question about what happened, but issues were exposed to the on-going mental health issues of Thompson.

The scene was horrific for the victim, classmates who witnessed the attack, and staff. Rosen was slashed violently across her neck to possibly murder her.

Thompson was 20 at the time of the attack. While some of the students in his chemistry class were not aware of his declining mental health, the campus had several months worth of complaints about the student.

A student assistant in the class reported a problem between Rosen and Thompson. There were clear signs from the inside that there could be an issue there.

Before he violently attacked Rosen in front of other students, reports about his paranoid behaviors on campus were filed at UCLA. There were also logs of threatening actions as well.

Shortly after enrolling at UCLA in 2008, Thompson began complaining to both his professors and school administrators about being targeted on campus.

It seemed that the new student felt like everyone around him was making fun of him and was in a way out to drive him away from the college. He was moved from one dorm after stating that the residents there were relentless in bullying him.

Even after being moved, the issues being reported by Thompson seemed never to ease up. He began to tell officials at the school to either handle the abuse or he would take matters into his own hands.

When the first move into different housing on campus did not solve the issues Thompson reported, there were people on campus that started to complain that he may be suffering from hallucinations. According to the court documents:

“UCLA officials knew Damon Thompson, Rosen’s assailant, suffered from paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations, had been barred from campus housing and had told a teaching assistant that he believed Rosen was demeaning him, according to court records.”

At one point, one of his professors sent an urgent email to campus officials about the need to do a wellness check of sorts on the student. The day before the attack, even his professors feared his behavior.

Court records show there was little done in response to the urgent message from his professor. He was still freely accessing campus when things almost turned deadly in the chemistry class.

Rosen was in the junior year of her pre-med studies at UCLA when she suffered life-threatening wounds. She was bending over to get something out of a drawer in class when Thompson suddenly attacked her.

He stabbed her in the chest and neck. It was clear at the time that he was out to do some real damage to the other student.

The lawsuit against UCLA for the attack pointed to the fact that the school could have done more to keep it from happening. Rosen ended up getting her throat slashed by a student that was known to be a threat to others.

In the years since the attack, there have been several frustrating court opinions. The first was tied to the criminal charges against Thompson.

The suspect was found to be unable to stand trial due to his mental health status. He was placed in a mental hospital.

He was later found to be not guilty of any crime due to his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

While the suspect suddenly seemed to have little responsibility in the matter, Rosen pushed for the school to address their failures in the matter.

The initial case against UCLA was thrown out by a lower court. It was appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court case was heard by a panel of judges. Justice Carol A. Corrigan explained the outcome of the case by saying:

“Students are comparatively vulnerable and dependent on their colleges for a safe environment. Although a criminal act is always shocking to some degree, it is not completely unpredictable if a defendant is aware of the risk.”