The state Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a former Washington State University student who sued the school after she was raped on campus.
Monday’s decision by the court’s Seattle division sends the case back to King County Superior Court, where a judge granted WSU summary judgment in the spring of 1994, dismissing the civil suit.
Jamie Johnson was an 18-year-old, first-year student living at Orton Hall when she was raped in September 1989, court papers showed.
Johnson told authorities she was raped after she tried to return to her dormitory room at about 2:30 a.m. by a man sitting next to the building entrance, apparently waiting to go inside.
A paroled sex offender pleaded
guilty to second-degree rape in the case. Gary S. Kenfield, who was 26 at the time, was sentenced to three years and five months in prison, the maximum under state sentencing guidelines.
In late 1992, Johnson sued in King County, her place of residence. The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges the university was negligent in failing to take reasonable steps to provide for her safety.
As a student living in campus housing, Johnson was entitled to a reasonable assurance of safety, and the school should have forseen the potential for rape near the dormitories and taken appropriate steps, the suit said.
In Superior Court, WSU counsel said nothing the school did or failed to do caused the rape.
They also cited recent case law in successfully arguing that universities are not obligated to provide a special level of security to students merely because of their status as students.
The three-judge appeals court disagreed, ruling that the school was obliged to provide “reasonable care” for Johnson’s personal safety and to warn her of potentially dangerous conditions.