A jury in South Carolina awarded a former Clemson University student $5.3 million in connection with defamation and civil conspiracy claims he brought against three individuals stemming from false allegations of sexual misconduct.
While the lawsuit against the individuals did not include a Title IX claim, the underlying circumstances did involve a Title IX investigation. In fact, the male student did bring suit against Clemson for violations of Title IX and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Clemson settled for an undisclosed amount.
This case is noteworthy because it resulted in such a large damage award based on accusations of sexual misconduct, and the resulting fallout from the investigation, which is something colleges and universities must frequently address.
The Facts of the Case
The case involved a female student who accused a male student of sexual misconduct. The male student alleged that their sexual encounter was consensual, and that his accuser only alleged misconduct and filed a Title IX complaint with the school (alleging she had been sexually assaulted while under the influence of alcohol), after her boyfriend learned of the encounter.
The accuser and her boyfriend allegedly began calling the male student a “rapist” to their friends. And the male student was suspended from Clemson and expelled from the university.
This case demonstrates that Title IX investigations can be fraught with risks. Such cases often involve allegations like the ones described above, and colleges and universities need to carefully handle such investigations, including any actions they take on the basis of allegations made by the parties involved.
If you have any questions about this case, or Title IX issues in general, please contact Ryan Kauffman.
Ryan K. Kauffman is a Shareholder at Fraser Trebilcock with more than a decade of experience handling complex litigation matters and representing higher education institutions. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517.377.0881.