Saturday, September 3, 2011
A federal jury decided Friday that Sewanee: The University of The South was negligent in handling a campus rape accusation but refused to award millions of dollars in damages to a former student.
The jury of seven women and two men awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages. However, the jurors found the former student — the plaintiff in the lawsuit — also partly responsible for the outcome of a rape complaint against him in 2008, and they decided the university owes the plaintiff just $26,500.
The plaintiff's attorney in closing arguments had suggested damages of more than $5 million.
The suit stemmed from a finding by the private, Episcopal-affiliated university that the then-freshman student was responsible for a rape. The university investigated, held a hearing and made the decision in response to a female student's complaint that the plaintiff, identified in court only as "John Doe," raped her in his dorm room after she had been drinking alcohol and was unable to consent to sex. Her statement in the rape complaint said she was prescribed mood-altering medications.