Judgment for ISU affirmed in locker room voyeurism case

A former Indiana State University volleyball player who sued the university upon learning a campus locker room was being secretly filmed by a fellow student could not convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that granting ISU’s motion for summary judgment was a mistake.

In 2017, ex-ISU student Nick Douglas Pledger pleaded guilty to two counts of Level 6 felony voyeurism, and two counts of Level 6 felony public voyeurism after he was caught secretly filming female student-athletes in an ISU campus locker room and sharing the videos online. He was sentenced to five years.

Not long after Shannon Murphy and her ISU women’s volleyball teammates were alerted to the hidden cameras, Murphy’s teammate, Stephanie Bindernagel, filed a notice of tort claim with ISU, the Indiana Political Subdivision Risk Management Commission, and the Attorney General regarding her claim for damages against ISU for negligent management of the locker room.

Murphy then filed a complaint against ISU and Pledger, alleging, in part, that ISU was negligent in the management and security of the locker room, which allowed Pledger to access the locker room. In the complaint, Murphy stated that she filed a notice of tort claim with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

The Vigo Superior Court granted in part and denied in part ISU’s motion for a protective order, but later granted its second motion for a protective order against Murphy. It also in October 2019 entered an order that considered ISU’s motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment in light of Murphy’s submitted exhibits, ultimately granting ISU’s motion for summary judgment.

The trial court concluded that Murphy did not substantially comply with the notice requirements of the Tort Claims Act, and subsequently denied her motion to correct error.

In affirming the trial court, the Indiana Court of Appeals first concluded that Murphy did not provide timely notice of her claim to ISU as required by Indiana Code Section 34-13-3-8. Instead, it noted that she provided notice of her claim only to the Attorney General using a form found on the Attorney General’s website, which was intended for tort claims against the state or a state agency.

Even considering together Bindernagel’s proper notice of tort claim, Murphy’s notice to the Attorney General and ISU’s investigation, the appellate court concluded that Murphy did not substantially comply with the Tort Claims Act’s notice requirements.

“The General Assembly has specifically articulated the notice of tort claim requirements, and, our Supreme Court and this Court have clearly expressed the purpose of such requirements. Murphy’s notice, which was provided to the wrong entity, did not satisfy the purpose of the notice requirements. Although the facts of this case are appalling and no doubt continue to substantially impact Murphy, the notice requirements of Indiana Code Section 34-13-3-8 and the cases interpreting the Tort Claims Act require us to conclude the trial court properly granted ISU’s motion for summary judgment based on the record before us,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote for the appellate court.

The case is Shannon Murphy v. Indiana State University and Nick D. Pledger, 20A-CT-313.

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