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Jan 182017
 

For immediate release, January 18, 2017

Estate of Karlie Hall v. Millersville University, et al.

Yesterday, Laffey, Bucci & Kent partner Brian Kent filed a lawsuit in one of the worst cases of on-campus assault in recent history. Attorney Kent filed the case on behalf of the parents of Karlie Hall.

Hall was a freshman at Millersville University when she was assaulted and murdered on February 8, 2015 in her dorm room. She was 18 years old.

The perpetrator was her boyfriend, 20 year old Gregorio Orrostieta, who was not a student of Millersville University. He was tried and convicted of 3rd degree murder in 2016 and is currently serving a 20-40 year prison sentence. The case received widespread media attention locally and nationally.

Federal Legal Issues in School Assault Cases

Millersville University is a public school located in Lancaster County, southeast of Harrisburg. Because of its status as a public institution, the recently filed lawsuit alleges liability under federal law.

The lawsuit also alleges claims under state law against the University and a fraternity. The negligence claims are against a local and national fraternity for serving alcohol to underage Hall and her boyfriend on the night of the murder. In addition, the complaint alleges that fraternity members witnessed Orrostieta assaulting Hall at the party, but failed to take action and instead continued to serve alcohol to him.

The lawsuit bears legal significance because of its theories of liability under federal law, the Civil Rights Act, Section 1983 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. These two laws are frequently litigated in cases involving assault or injury to students in public school settings. In the Third Circuit alone, there have been a slew of such cases over the last decade. The Hall case joins the list.

Related: Pennsylvania Public School Sex Assault Law Update – Federal Court Rules Against Philadelphia Public School

The complaint alleges that the school, through its agents and employees, had prior knowledge of the volatile and physically abusive relationship between Karlie Hall and her boyfriend, Orrostieta, and specifically created the circumstances that led to her murder.

According to the complaint, roughly 4 months prior to Hall’s murder, a dorm/resident assistant was made aware of an act of physical assault by Orrostieta against Hall. The assistant called campus police who escorted the boyfriend off campus, but failed to otherwise take any further action, such as investigating or filing a criminal report.

The complaint also alleges that one month before Hall’s murder, Orrostieta physically abused Hall again, this time resulting in a fractured eye socket that caused Hall to miss classes for a week. Hall’s mother reported the incident to campus police, who again took no action. Orrostieta continued to have access to Hall’s dorm, where he was staying in the days leading to her murder.

In the early morning hours of February 8, 2015, at approximately 2:00 a.m., the same dorm/resident assistant responded to complaints of loud banging and cries for “help” coming from Hall’s dorm room. She then knocked on Hall’s door, but left after hearing nothing. Less than 4 hours later, Hall was found dead by campus police and local law enforcement.

These facts lay the ground for the claims that the school and its employees acted with deliberate indifference to the federal legal rights of Karlie Hall. The failure to take any action in response to each of the incidents, which began 4 months before the murder, created the perfect storm.

The complaint requests a jury trial and seeks financial damages on behalf of the estate of Karlie Hall.

Crime Victims’ Rights Advocacy

Laffey, Bucci & Kent attorneys have handled numerous crime victims’ rights lawsuits including priest sex abuse, assaults committed by medical professionals and shooting death cases against property owners. For more information, contact the firm at 215.399.9255.