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Two years after her murder, the family of slain Yale pharmacology graduate student Annie Le has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university, alleging that it created a culture of violence, for years failing to protect women on campus from sexual harassment and assault.
The Annie Le lawsuit further asserts that Raymond Clark III, the lab technician who has since been sentenced to 44 years in prison for Le's murder, was a known threat to the safety of others, yet was allowed to retain his employment and remain in close contact with students and other employees.
Though the allegations of Yale's tolerance towards sexual harassment are interesting (and under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education), they aren't likely to result in a finding of wrongful death.
Wrongful death lawsuits filed against third parties are premised on the theory of negligence, which, in the case of the Annie Le lawsuit, means that there must be evidence that Yale's negligence is the legal cause of Le's death.
To be the legal, or proximate, cause of Annie Le's death, her murder would have to have been a foreseeable consequence of the university's actions.
It will certainly be difficult to convince a jury that a brutal murder is the likely result of a general ambivalence towards sexual harassment.
This doesn't mean that Le's family will be unable to recover.
Raymond Clark's sister and brother-in-law were also Yale lab technicians, and according to the Annie Le lawsuit, raised concerns about his behavior. Though Yale has asserted that it had no such information, if it turns out that the university knew, or should have known, that Clark was violent, it could very well be held responsible on the theories of negligent hiring and retention.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.