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Small settlement ends UMW lawsuit
Former University of Mary Washington student who was raped receives $7,500 settlement.


Date published: 8/1/2011

A former University of Mary Washington student who sued the school after being raped in a campus parking garage has received a $7,500 settlement.

In a letter to the state Division of Risk Management dated July 13, Assistant Attorney General John Gilbody wrote that UMW President Rick Hurley had approved the agreement. He requested that a $7,500 check be made payable to Lewis Lowery, the plaintiff’s Fredericksburg attorney.

Hurley declined to comment on the settlement Monday, as did a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office.

The student, who left the Fredericksburg university after the 2008 incident, filed a $10 million lawsuit last year accusing UMW of having poor security. The suit stated that the man who attacked her entered the parking deck without being stopped, videotaped or photographed by security cameras.

There has been no arrest in the rape. The Free Lance–Star does not identify victims of sexual assault.

The newspaper received Gilbody’s letter in response to a request for the settlement amount. It’s unclear if the settlement has other conditions.

The suit names the commonwealth of Virginia as the defendant because UMW is a state agency.

In March, Fredericksburg Circuit Court Judge Gordon Willis ruled that UMW was not liable for the student’s rape.

Lowery filed a notice of appeal on May 6, but it has since been dropped.

Lowery said in an email Monday that he was not at liberty to discuss the case.

The rape occurred about 2 a.m. Oct. 3, 2008. The victim—who was a UMW sophomore at the time—was walking from her car on the third floor of UMW’s parking deck off U.S. 1 before being violently assaulted.

She was heading to her dorm room in Virginia Hall, according to the lawsuit.

The suit accuses UMW of negligence and claims the attacker’s actions were “reasonably foreseeable” by university officials.

Gilbody said at a hearing in March that UMW doesn’t have a duty to protect students unless it has knowledge of a “specific imminent threat.” University officials had no reason to believe the plaintiff would be raped, he said.

UMW has made several improvements to the parking garage since the attack, said Ruth Lovelace, director of emergency management and safety. They include:

Security cameras that run 24/7. Some can pan, tilt and zoom, which allows for effective surveillance.

Chain-link fencing at ground level and between each deck level.

Better lighting throughout the parking deck, as well as at the garage’s walkways, elevator lobbies and stairwells.

Security personnel at the deck during evening and early morning hours.

An emergency phone system that enables dispatch to immediately know the location of a caller. The garage has eight phones, two on each level.

“Along with these items we have heightened our security awareness training with all of our incoming students so that they are better prepared for the dangers that may be present in any personal security situation,” Lovelace wrote in an email.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402

jbranscome@freelancestar.com