The family of Annie Le, a Yale University doctoral student who was strangled by a lab technician on campus in 2009, has sued the university for negligence, charging that Yale has failed to properly address sexual harassment and sexual assault of students for years.
"Sexual attacks on and harassment of women at Yale had been a well-documented and long-standing problem, and there was a widespread belief that Yale repeatedly failed to impose meaningful discipline on offenders," the lawsuit said.
The family's attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said Yale knew or should have known that lab technician Raymond Clark III posed a potential threat to Le's safety, given his "previously demonstrated aggressive behavior and a violent propensity toward women," Reuters reports.
According to the Hartford Courant:
Another family attorney, Brian King, said last year that Le's family questioned whether Yale did a proper background check before hiring Clark. King also said that Le's family was upset about what it perceived as a delay by Yale in the investigation of Le's disappearance. In addition, he said, the family was insulted by what King called "a minimal reward," believed to be about $15,000, that Yale offered for information about Le's disappearance.
"Yale had no information indicating that Raymond Clark was capable of committing this terrible crime, and no reasonable security measures could have prevented his unforeseeable act," Thomas Conroy, a Yale spokesman, said in an e-mail statement. "This lawsuit serves neither justice nor Annie's memory.”
In the two years since the murder of the 24-year-old pharmacology student, Yale has taken steps to increase safety on campus, according to ABC News:
After Le's murder, Yale updated its workplace violence prevention policy, stating that the university had "zero tolerance" for violent and threatening behavior.
The university also added violence-prevention training for curriculum managers, and background checks for temporary workers hired through agencies, as well as vendors with electronic access to Yale's buildings.
Clark, 26, is currently serving 44 years in jail after admitting that he strangled Le, then hid her body behind a wall in the lab building, where it was found on Sept. 13, 2009, the day she was supposed to have been getting married.
"Yale will certainly argue that many of the claims made by the Le family's attorney had nothing to with Annie's death," ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams told the network. "But even if Yale's legal team believes they could win the suit, this is the type of case that will likely result in an out-of-court financial settlement."