Lawsuit filed against Liberty University by 12 Jane Does settled

Original suit accused university of creating an environment where ‘sexual assaults and rapes are foreseeably more likely to occur’

Liberty University settled a lawsuit brought against them by 12 Jane Does in July of last year

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Liberty University has settled a lawsuit filed last July on behalf of 12 Jane Does, according to court documents.

The original lawsuit accused the university of creating “a campus environment where sexual assaults and rapes are foreseeably more likely to occur than they would in the absence of Liberty’s policies.”

According to court documents, legal counsel for the 12 Jane Does filed a notice of dismissal with the court on Wednesday.

The original lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, specifically referenced the Liberty Way, the university’s honor code. The women were originally requesting a jury trial in their case.

In the suit, one of the women detailed her encounter with then 18-year-old Jesse Mathew Jr. while attending a summer camp hosted by the university when she was 15 years old in 2000.

In May 2016, Matthew pleaded guilty to the murders of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham in 2014 and Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington in 2009 and is currently serving a life sentence in prison for his crimes.

As a whole, the women were claiming the following counts against Liberty University:

  1. Pre-assault deliberate indifference/hostile environment
  2. Post-assault deliberate indifference
  3. Hostile environment
  4. Retaliation
  5. Pregnant and parenting deliberate indifference/hostile environment
  6. Negligence (non-Title IX)
  7. A charge in connection with the naked photographs taken of Jane Doe 12

10 News has reached out to legal representation of the Jane Does for comment and is waiting for a response.

Statement from Liberty University:

Liberty University president Jerry Prevo made it clear when the Jane Does filed their lawsuit that, despite certain claims being potentially outside of the statute of limitations, the university was committed to doing what it could to “make things right” with the plaintiffs represented by attorney Jack Larkin.

Liberty University can confirm that the institution reached settlement agreements with all the Jane Doe plaintiffs, as well as all but two of the additional Jane Does that attorney Larkin represented. As a result, Mr. Larkin dismissed with prejudice the lawsuit that he had previously filed on the Jane Does’ behalf.

The University can also share that, before attempting to settle, it had already undertaken various initiatives over many months, under the direction of President Prevo and the Board of Trustees.

Some of these initiatives include over $8.5 Million in security upgrades, including the installation of security cameras, blue light boxes, and enhanced campus lighting, along with the launching of a cell phone app for emergency reporting.

The university also launched reviews of, and elected to further enhance, many of its existing policies. Its ongoing review of the campus Title IX department will result in further strengthening of its policies and procedures, including additional mandatory training for students and employees. There will also be changes to Liberty’s amnesty policy. The existing policy is now being revised to better communicate — with respect to reports of sexual harassment and/or assault— that Liberty does not discipline parties who engage in behaviors, in connection with that sexual harassment and/or assault, that would have otherwise violated its student honor code.

Liberty also intends to add additional lactation rooms to better support mothers who are members of the University community, and to improve community awareness of accommodations available to those who are pregnant and/or parenting. In addition to Liberty making donations to community sexual assault response programs, the university is also reviewing its own student counseling services to ensure that there are more services available to the community by licensed mental health providers, including in rapid response scenarios resulting from sexual assault.

Again, the University hopes that the many measures that it undertook prior to the settlement also convey the sincerity and seriousness by which Liberty University is approaching these concerns under the direction of President Prevo and the university’s Board of Trustees.


About the Author:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a content producer in July 2018.