Federal Judge Allows Lawsuit Against Baylor To Proceed In Court
A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a lawsuit against Baylor University involving 10 women— including one who alleged she was sexually assaulted by a football player— may proceed in court.
Judge Lets Baylor Sexual Assault Lawsuit Proceed in Court
Thus, attorneys can now begin requesting Baylor’s records and conducting interviews.
There is a two-year statute of limitations for heightened risk liability claims against Baylor that ends in the spring of 2018. U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman has been assigned to all six lawsuits involving the school, and the University has filed motions to dismiss in all except the two most recently filed.
This is the first case on which Pittman has ruled on Baylor’s request to have one of the Title IX lawsuits thrown out.
In his 27-page order filed Tuesday, Pittman wrote that each woman “has plausibly alleged that Baylor was deliberately indifferent to her report(s) of sexual assault, depriving her of educational opportunities to which she was entitled.”
Houston lawyer Chad Dunn, one of the women’s attorneys, said in an email Tuesday that Pittman’s ruling will affect more than just this lawsuit.
“The ruling is [a] great leap forward for each of our 10 clients, and all Baylor victims,” he wrote. “Full discovery now starts, and real transparency can come to Baylor.”
In the five Title IX cases that involve women reporting rape incidents, the two primary arguments are similar. They also allege that following their assaults, Baylor failed to properly investigate their specific complaints and provide them with necessary services. The women also stated that even before their alleged assaults, the university had a continuing system of discouraging or ignoring sexual assault reports and a policy of discrimination that placed them at greater risk of assault.
The lawsuit was initially filed June 15, 2016 and includes 10 women, listed as Jane Does 1 through 10, whose reports of sexual assault range from 2004 to 2016. All incidents except one allegedly occurred in housing owned or operated by Baylor.
Each woman has said that she reported her assault to someone at Baylor, such as the counseling center, Baylor police, university medical personnel or another campus office, and was met with “indifference and inadequate response.” They say they were denied their rights under Title IX, the federal gender equity law that requires universities to investigate and address complaints of sexual violence.
Jane Doe No. 1 claims she was raped by a football player— who is not named in the lawsuit— in a dorm room on April 26, 2014, and that she first reported it to a campus physician who she alleges misinformed her of her rights. The woman said she also reported her assault to the Baylor advocacy center, although they did not take action either. Jane Doe 1 claimed her subsequent anxiety and depression caused her grades to fall and the loss of her scholarship.
The other plaintiffs’ stories vary in the details, although several others also point out weak or inexistent responses from Baylor upon their assault report, which left them emotionally, academically, and financially damaged. Four of the women claimed the fact that they had been drinking at the time of the assault had hurt their cases.
At least one of them reported that when she informed judicial affairs of her sexual assault, the judicial affairs staff member instead questioned her about her alcohol consumption and she “left the judicial affairs office with only a lecture on drinking.”
In Baylor’s motion to dismiss, the university argued that the women’s allegations were “an amalgam of incidents that involved completely different contexts, offenders, and victims,” and “evidence of a general problem of sexual violence is not sufficient.”
In response, Pittman wrote in his order issued Tuesday that the women weren’t saying Baylor knew about allegations against their specific assailants before they were assaulted, “but what they have alleged — a widespread pattern of discriminatory responses to female students’ reports of sexual assault — is arguably more egregious.”
He continued, “Indeed, even those Supreme Court justices who expressed skepticism regarding holding institutions liable for sexual assaults on individual students under Title IX have suggested that ‘a clear pattern of discriminatory enforcement of school rules could raise an inference that the school itself is discriminating.'”
The women had also filed claims under Texas state law for negligence and breach of contract, although Pittman dismissed those claims, stating they were not supported by the facts of the case.
ORLANDO, FL – DECEMBER 29: Johnny Jefferson #5 of the Baylor Bears scores a touchdown during the first half of the Russell Athletic Bowl game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Orlando Citrus Bowl on December 29, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)