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Supreme Court rejects questions in IU frat sex assault case

June 4, 2018

By a majority vote, the Indiana Supreme Court has declined certified questions of Indiana state law presented by a federal court concerning an Indiana University campus sexual assault case.

In April, Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana certified several questions to the Indiana Supreme Court regarding the role of foreseeability of negligence claims under Indiana precedent. The questions arose from a case involving a 2015 sexual assault case of an IU student at a Delta Tau Delta fraternity event, Jane Doe No. 62 v. Indiana University Bloomington, et al., Case No. 1:16-CV-01480-JMS-DML.

The plaintiff, identified as Jane Doe, was an invitee of a social event hosted at the DTD fraternity house and had been drinking before and during the assault. At the time of the event, Doe was seen entering the house with fraternity member John Enochs and later called police to report that he had sexually assaulted her. Enochs eventually pleaded guilty to battery.

Doe sued Enochs and the fraternity, claiming DTD had a duty to protect her from the assault as a guest of the fraternity. Doe also claimed the fraternity owed her duty of care considering a similar assault case allegedly committed by Enochs against another female student in 2013 at the fraternity house. As a result, Doe raised four claims of negligence against the fraternity. Magnus-Stinson brought those arguments to the Supreme Court, referencing the most recent cases on that issue, including Goodwin v. Yeakle’s Sports Bar & Grill, 62 N.E.3d 384 and Rogers v. Martin, 63 N.E.3d 316.

Questions certified by Magnus-Stinson that were declined by the Supreme Court in an order last week included:

• “Under the standard articulated in Rogers and Goodwin, may a court consider the actual knowledge of a defendant in determining the foreseeability of any event in the context of a duty analysis? If so, does it properly do so by framing either the class of plaintiff or the harm in terms of that knowledge?”

• “Under Indiana law, does a fraternity owe a duty to a female social invitee to protect her from sexual assault by a member of the fraternity during a fraternity-sponsored event?”

• “Does the analysis change where there is evidence that prior to the event some fraternity members were told by a third party that the fraternity member had on an earlier occasion sexually assaulted a female?”

• “Is the analysis impacted by evidence that the female social invitee may have been under the influence of alcohol, most of which was consumed off premises, at the time of the sexual assault?”

The order did not indicate how justices voted on whether to accept the certified questions.

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