Lees v. Carthage Coll., No. 11-3061 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Lees was sexually assaulted in her Carthage dorm room by men she believed to be Carthage students. She brought a negligence action against the college, seeking to introduce the opinion testimony of Dr. Kennedy, a premises-security expert, as evidence of the standard of care for campus safety. Kennedy was to testify that there were numerous security deficiencies at Carthage and at Lees’s residence hall, that there was history of sexual assault at the school, and that Carthage fell short of recommended practices in campus security. The district court excluded Kennedy’s testimony, finding that the industry standards were only aspirational and failed to account for variation between different academic environments and that recent sexual assaults at Carthage involved acquaintance rape, while the Lees attack was stranger rape; the court entered summary judgment for Carthage. The Seventh Circuit vacated, finding proposed testimony about standards published by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators admissible under Rule 702 and not unreliable merely because the standards are aspirational; the standards represent an authoritative statement by premises-security professionals regarding recommended practices. Testimony about the absence of a “prop alarm” on the dorm’s basement door also reflects application of reliable principles and methods to the specific facts of the case.