OR Case Update: No Prior Incident Required: Civil Liability for Criminal Acts of Third Parties (Part II)

From the desk of Jeffrey D. Eberhard: In the conclusion of this special two-part update, we discuss an important question brought before the Oregon Court of Appeals: Can a national organization be liable for the negligence of a local chapter, which led to an alcohol-related sexual assault of a guest, when the national organization provides significant guidance and warnings to local chapters about the dangers of alcohol and sexual assault?

Claims Pointer: As discussed in Part I of this update, this case involved a lawsuit against a college fraternity for allowing one of its members to become intoxicated, which led to sexual assault the plaintiff, who attended a party at the fraternity’s chapter house. As discussed in last week’s update, the Court of Appeals held that the local chapter’s summary judgment motion should have been denied because it was potentially foreseeable to the local chapter that its failure to prohibit guests in members’ rooms could lead to the plaintiff’s injuries. In regards to the national fraternity, however, the Court of Appeals held (1) that the national fraternity could not be liable for the local chapter’s conduct because the national chapter delegated day-to-day operations (including providing safety at parties) to the local chapters; and (2) that the national chapter was not negligent for failing to enforce its rules and guidelines on alcohol and sexual assault because it did not owe a duty to keep the plaintiff safe.

Scheffel v. Oregon Beta Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, 273 Or App 390 (September 2, 2015).

On Halloween night, 2008, Ms. Scheffel, a student at Oregon State University (“OSU”), was sexually assaulted by Gregory Sako at a party hosted at Sako’s fraternity, a local chapter (“Beta Chapter”) of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity (“Phi Psi”). Phi Psi is a national fraternity with more than a hundred local chapters, including the Beta Chapter at OSU. While Phi Psi had the power to admit, suspend, and...

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