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January 21st, 2022

Appeals Court Decision Clears Way for Wrongful Death Case Against Millersville University

Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan attorneys Guy D’Andrea and Stewart Ryan and appellate lawyer Jim Davy represent family of 18-year-old Karlie Hall who was murdered by her boyfriend in her college dorm room

PHILADELPHIA (January 2022) – The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 10 cleared the way for the Hall family to proceed with its Title IX wrongful death suit against Millersville University over the murder of their daughter Karlie, 18, by her boyfriend in her dorm room in 2015.

In a precedential decision, the three-judge panel held that if a school has notice of an instance of abuse covered by Title IX, and if it has control over the abuser and the context of the abuse, it must take appropriate action even if the abuser is a visiting third party. Attorneys Guy D’Andrea and Stewart Ryan, of Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan, filed the original wrongful death lawsuit against Millersville on behalf of the Hall family, and Jim Davy of All Rise Trial and Appellate argued the case on appeal.

“This is an incredibly important decision that affects not just our client but survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual violence across the United States,” Ryan said. “The Third Circuit has now explicitly told schools that when they become aware of abuse and violence occurring at their institutions, they no longer can sit idly by and do nothing just because the perpetrator is not a student. We now look forward to a jury hearing the case and finding justice for Karlie.”

The case, Hall v. Millersville University, et al., involves the tragic murder of Karlie Hall in February 2015 by her then-boyfriend, Gregorio Orrostieta. Orrostieta was found guilty of murder in May 2016 and remains in prison. The legal question in the case centers on whether a school can be held liable for the conduct of a student’s guest and/or a third party for acts of abuse on school property. More than 30 public interest groups, including Women’s Law Project, Women Against Abuse, WOAR- Philadelphia’s Center Against Sexual Violence, and Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, signed on to an amicus brief supporting the appeal.

Millersville University had been aware of violence against Hall dating back to October 2014, when Orrostieta assaulted Hall in her dorm room on campus. This act of intimate partner violence was reported to multiple people at Millersville including a resident assistant, Millersville University Police, and the Millersville Title IX office. Despite the reports, and despite being legally obligated to act to protect Hall, Millersville University did nothing.

Hall’s parents filed suit against the university, but the trial court dismissed the case. While finding that Millersville had been deliberately indifferent toward Hall’s abuse, the trial court determined that Millersville did not have an obligation to try to control Orrostieta, who the trial court characterized as an invited guest. The Halls appealed, and the recent decision from the Third Circuit rejected the trial court’s finding.

“This decision will help protect students across the Third Circuit and beyond,” Ryan said, “though it is truly sad that this message was forced to come under these tragic circumstances.”


About Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan

The law firm was founded in 2009 by Jeff Laffey, Paul Bucci & Guy D’Andrea. Each attorney brings a wealth of trial experience to the firm. Combined, attorneys at the firm have over 50 years of experience and have obtained over $200 million for their clients. In addition to crime victim injury cases, the firm handles a variety of personal injury matters including work injuries, construction accidents, defective product injuries, auto injuries and more.