Barlow v. State (Majority, Dissent and Concurrence/Dissent)Annotate this Case
The Supreme Court of the State of Washington considered two questions certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit regarding a university's duty of care towards its students. The plaintiff, a student, alleged that the defendant university was negligent in failing to protect her from being raped by a fellow student, who had prior complaints of sexual misconduct, at an off-campus party. The first question asked whether under Washington law a university has a special relationship with its students that gives rise to a duty to use reasonable care to protect them from foreseeable harm caused by other students. The Court answered yes, indicating that such a relationship exists as defined by the common law principles laid out in the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 344. This duty applies when a student is on campus or participating in university-sponsored activities. The second question asked about the scope of this duty. The Court determined that the duty applies within the confines of the university campus or at university-controlled events, and is based on a student's enrollment and presence on campus. The Court did not extend this duty to off-campus situations or situations not under the university's control. Therefore, the Court concluded that the university was not liable for the plaintiff's off-campus assault.