MA Negligent Security & Premises Liability: Lisa Mullin’s QUEST for Justice

On December 11, 1977 “The plaintiff, a female student at Pine Manor College (college), was raped on campus by an unidentified assailant who was never apprehended.” LISA MULLIN vs. PINE MANOR COLLEGE 389 Mass. 47 (1983) 449 N.E.2d 331

Predictably, the Defendant and/ or their insurance company denied liability.

From the date when she first was victimized in 1977, she had to endure a nearly six year battle with the help of a Massachusetts Personal injury and Negligent Security Attorney to seek compensation for her injuries.

“The defendants argue that they owe no duty to protect students against the criminal acts of third parties. They rely on the general proposition that there is no duty to protect others from the criminal or wrongful activities of third persons. “Id.

Negligent Security/ Premises Liability claims usually result from failure to protect against assault and battery, robbery, rape, murder or other criminal acts of a third party causing injury.

The case of LISA MULLIN vs. PINE MANOR COLLEGE appears to be another example of an insurance company and organization committing the four D’s- attempting to Duck, Delay, Defend and Deny.

It took nearly six years for an innocent victim to get the justice she deserved in a negligent security case as a result of the negligence of a college.

Thankfully, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Mullin shot down each and every argument by the defendant and their highly paid personal Injury defense lawyers.

Predictably, these empty suit Insurance lawyers argued that the college owed no duty to its female students to protect them from criminal acts of third parties.

Really ? Duck, Delay, Defend, Deny and Litigate. A college which provides dorms AND IS COSTLY and has young women on campus owes them nothing to protect them?

The MA Supreme Judicial Court defined the general law in MA:  “Colleges must, therefore, act “to use reasonable care to prevent injury” to their students “by third persons whether their acts were accidental, negligent, or intentional.” Carey v. New Yorker of Worcester, Inc., 355 Mass. 450, 452 (1969). Id.

The Court reasoned that “The concentration of young people, especially young women, on a college campus, creates favorable opportunities for criminal behavior. The threat of criminal acts of third parties to resident students is self-evident, and the college is the party which is in the position to take those steps which are necessary to ensure the safety of its students. No student has the ability to design and implement a security system, hire and supervise security guards, provide security at the entrance of dormitories, install proper locks, and establish a system of announcement for authorized visitors.[6] Resident students typically live in a particular room for a mere nine months and, as a consequence, lack the incentive and capacity52*52 to take corrective measures. College regulations may also bar the installation of additional locks or chains. Some students may not have been exposed previously to living in a residence hall or in a metropolitan area and may not be fully conscious of the dangers that are present.[7] Thus, the college must take the responsibility on itself if anything is to be done at all. Cf. Young v. Garwacki, 380 Mass. 162, 168 (1980).” Id.


“The duty of care in this case can be grounded in another theory. It is an established principle that a duty voluntarily assumed must be performed with due care. Black v.New York, N.H., & H.R.R., 193 Mass. 448 (1907). See Phillips v. Chicago Hous. Auth.,89 Ill.2d 123 (1982); Cross v. 53*53 Wells Fargo Alarm Servs., 82 Ill.2d 313 (1980)Pippinv. Chicago Hous. Auth., 78 Ill.2d 204 (1979) Restatement (Second) of Torts § 323 (1965), states: “One who undertakes, gratuitously or for consideration, to render services to another which he should recognize as necessary for the protection of the other’s person or things, is subject to liability to the other for physical harm resulting from his failure to exercise reasonable care to perform his undertaking, if (a) his failure to exercise such care increases the risk of such harm, or (b) the harm is suffered because of the other’s reliance upon the undertaking.”[9]Id.



“Colleges generally undertake voluntarily to provide their students with protection from the criminal acts of third parties. The evidence warrants the conclusion that PineManor undertook such a duty. It is clear that this undertaking by Pine Manor was not gratuitous.[10] Students are charged, either through their tuition or a dormitory fee, for this service. Adequate security is an indispensable part of the bundle of services which colleges, and Pine Manor, afford their students.” Id.


Predictably, the defendant’s mercenary injury defense attorneys argued that this criminal attack was not foreseeable. Its par for the course: DUCK, Defend, Deny, Delay & Litigate but certainly don’t pay a legitimate claim.

Young female college students living in a major metropolitan city in which the school provides security and helps students with safety during freshman orientation and this is unforeseeable.? What is foreseeable is that  these defendants and their insurance companies will refuse to pay legitimate claims.

The Mass. Supreme Judicial Court made easy work of these ridiculous arguments typically made by big money greedy insurance companies.

The Court rebuffed these arguments when stating: “We reject the argument advanced by the college and Person that the criminal attack here was not foreseeable. This contention is untenable in light of Person’s testimony which admitted that he had foreseen the risk that a student at Pine 55*55 Manor could be attacked and raped on campus. Indeed, the precautions which Pine Manor and other colleges take to protect their students against criminal acts of third parties would make little sense unless criminal acts were foreseeable. The director of student affairs testified that she warned students during freshman orientation of the dangers inherent in being housed at a women’s college near a metropolitan area only a short distance from bus and train lines which lead directly to Boston. The risk of such a criminal act was not only foreseeable but was actually foreseen.” Id.


The Court reasoned that “Parents, students, and the general community still have a reasonable expectation, fostered in part by colleges themselves, that reasonable care will be exercised to protect resident students from foreseeable harm.” Id

Predictably, the Defendants’ attorneys argue that they should not have to pay anything unless the victim can show prior criminal acts on campus. AGAIN: DUCK, DELAY, DENY, DEFEND and LITIGATE

THE MA TOP COURT reasoned “The college and Person, however, urge us to adopt an arbitrary limitation on liability by requiring that a student must introduce evidence of prior criminal acts on the campus. They rely on cases from other jurisdictions which hold that an owner or occupier of land is under no duty to protect persons lawfully on the premises against the criminal acts of third persons unless prior criminal acts occurred on the premises. See e.g., Riley v.Marcus, 125 Cal. App.3d 103, 109 (1981)Scott v. Watson, 278 Md. 160, 169 (1976);Gulf Reston, Inc. v. Rogers, 215 Va. 155, 157-159 (1974). We choose not to follow those cases, at least in the circumstances before us.[12] Those cases consider the general duty of 56*56 an owner or occupier of land to persons lawfully on the premises. That duty implicates a wide range of interests that are not present here. The instant case concerns only the distinctive relationship between colleges and their students. But see Relyea v. State, 385 So.2d 1378 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1980). Moreover, the standard of foreseeability turns on an examination of all the circumstances. Mounsey v. Ellard,363 Mass. 693, 708-709 (1973). Prior criminal acts are simply one factor among others that establish the foreseeability of the act of the third party. Samson v. Saginaw Professional Bldg., Inc., 393 Mich. 393, 406-407 (1975).” Id.

(Editors notes: It appears that the defendant only was able to get 20k from the college becuase of charitable immunity in MA. The other defendant sought charitable immunity but was denied and it is unclear how much in damages that defendant paid)

Predictably, the  Defendant’s  shark attorneys argued in the alternative that even if they have a duty to protect  students they were not negligent!  Duck, Delay, Deny, Defend and Endless Litigation!

If this is not negligence then don’t know what negligence is! Let’s see:

-one key that opens all the pertinent doors including the dorm room

-no deadbolts or chains on the dorm doors and a credit card could easily open the door

-only two security Guards on duty

The Massachusetts MA Supreme Judicial Court sitting in Boston Mass. stated: “The jury could have found the following deficiencies in the college’s security system. An observation post near the main entrance is situated at such a distance 57*57 from the fence that an intruder could climb over the fence without being detected by the guard on duty. The exterior gates leading into the courtyards were not difficult to scale or to open. The walls surrounding the courtyards were too low to be adequately protective. The college used a single key system whereby the same key would open the door to the commons building, the door to the dormitory, and the door to the individual room. Only two security guards were on duty at any time. No system was utilized to ensure that the guards were performing their patrols around the campus. The locks on the doors to the dormitory and the individual rooms were easy to pick, and neither deadbolts nor chains were used. The jury also could have credited the opinion of the plaintiff’s expert that the security provided by Pine Manor was inadequate to protect a student in the position of the plaintiff. Additionally, there was evidence that after the evening of the attack, the college hired two additional guards to patrol the villages from 11:30 P.M. to 7:30 A.M. and installed chains on the interior side of the doors to individual rooms.[13] There was also ample evidence that the guards failed to perform their duties both prior to the attack and on the evening of the attack. There was evidence that the locks to the individual rooms could be opened with a credit card. There was also evidence that the door to Mullins’s dormitory lacked a knife guard which the defendants’ expert witness indicated should have been present.

Predictably, Big Insurance argued “that the judge should have ruled, as matter of law, that the intervening criminal act of an unknown third person was a superseding cause which severed the chain of proximate causation” BLAH BLA BLAH

Pay the claim already!

“Our holding that the defendants had foreseen the risk of criminal attack largely disposes of the issue. The act of a third party does not excuse the first wrongdoer if such act was, or should have been, foreseen”  Id.

“We also reject the contention that an officer of a charitable institution may not be held liable for the negligent performance of a discretionary function without evidence of bad faith.” Id.

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