A civil lawsuit filed by the parents of missing Indiana University student Lauren Spierer was properly decided in favor of defendants who were among the last people to see her, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
The panel affirmed summary judgment in favor of Corey Rossman, Jason Rosenbaum and Michael Beth, who had supplied a visibly intoxicated Spierer with alcohol during a night of heavy drinking on and around the Bloomington campus in June 2011. Judges said the case remains a mystery, but there is nothing making the defendants liable under negligence or other causes of action.
“Despite four years of extensive searching, there is no credible information about what happened to Lauren after she left Rosenbaum’s apartment. Taking matters into their own hands, Lauren’s parents filed this suit, alleging that Rossman, Rosenbaum, and Beth were negligent, both at common law and by Indiana statute, for failing to fulfill their duty to care for Lauren in her incapacitated condition,” Circuit Judge Daniel A. Manion wrote in Robert E. Spierer, et al. v. Corey E. Rossman, et al., 14-3171.
“The defendants cited to the pleadings to contend that the plaintiffs would not be able to meet their burden of production at trial to demonstrate a verifiable injury to Lauren that was caused by the defendants’ actions and not other intervening factors,” Manion wrote. “Given this set of facts, that was sufficient to meet their burden for summary judgment.
“As it stands, there are no facts to present to a jury to determine the nature of the injury suffered by Lauren. Still more problematic, it remains pure speculation whether any injury was caused by the defendants’ actions or the criminal intervention of a third party. For this reason, the district court correctly granted summary judgment.”
The panel also ruled that the defendants owed no duty of care to Spierer because they were classmates in no position of superiority. “We have found no decisions under Indiana law where persons were held liable for the actions of their social peers, absent additional factors not present here. To hold otherwise would be to extend the reach of negligence far beyond special relationships and into virtually all social relationships and situations where a risk of danger might be present,” the panel concluded.