Reply further argues legitimacy of sexual assault lawsuit

by Christina Jedra / Beacon Staff • December 4, 2014

The lawyer for a former student suing Emerson and four administrators for mishandling her sexual assault case provided further reasoning against dismissing the lawsuit in a Nov. 21 filing.

In September, Emerson’s lawyers moved to dismiss the case, and this filing, submitted to the U.S. District Court in Springfield, is the latest in a series of replies between the two sides. It maintains that Emerson’s arguments do not meet the legal standards for dismissal of the case.

According to the lawsuit, Jillian Doherty alleges Emerson and school officials violated the gender equity law Title IX, acted negligently, and intentionally inflicted emotional distress by failing to take precautions to prevent sexual assault on campus and mishandling the investigation and hearings in her rape case.

Doherty’s recent reply states that the college’s response was “clearly unreasonable” and thus should be reviewed by a jury.

“Emerson’s response was so grossly inadequate and unreasonable it was akin to the failure to remedy the situation at all,” the reply states. “One could argue that Emerson’s response in holding a kangaroo court hearing based upon [Doherty’s Title IX investigator, Michael] Arno’s  incompetent investigation was actually worse than completely ignoring the Plaintiff’s complaint and hoping she would just disappear.”

The reply states that sexual assaults are a national problem that Emerson should have been diligent about preventing on its own campus through educating its students about unwanted sexual contact and how to respond to criminal conduct.

“The Defendants’ approach to sexual assaults was to stick their head in the sand and hope that the issue disappeared despite knowledge and notice of numerous other sexual assaults,” the reply states. “The time has come to hold educational institutions responsible for their failure to properly educate students and staff regarding Title IX and sexual assaults.”