A murder inside Harvard University has spawned a wrongful death lawsuit by the victim’s mother against the Massachusetts university, as well as three Harvard officials who held positions of authority in the dormitory where the murder took place. In a slight twist, the murderer and the victim were not even students at the university. Nevertheless, the victim’s mother claims a wrongful death occurred, in part, because Harvard knew or should have known that the murderer was conducting a criminal drug enterprise within the dormitory.
The man said to be behind the whole affair was convicted of first-degree murder in April 2011. He has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Two codefendants in that criminal proceeding copped deals with prosecutors, and one testified against the shooter at trial.
The fatal incident happened on May 18, 2009. The murderer was living in the Lowell House dormitory with his girlfriend, a Harvard student. She had apparently given him her Harvard identification card to allow him access to university buildings. The lawsuit alleges that he was running a drug business from inside Lowell House, and the victim was lured to the location and murdered, all as part of the criminal drug activities. The victim was apparently accosted for cash and marijuana, which he refused to hand over and for which he was shot dead.
For its part, Harvard denies liability and claims the victim entered Harvard property on the day of the murder solely to sell illicit drugs to individuals who had no affiliation with Harvard. While it remains to be seen what the result of this wrongful death claim will be, the law in Massachusetts recognizes the right of a victim’s surviving family to pursue monetary damages resulting from a fatality caused by the negligent or intentional conduct of another. At issue in the civil legal proceedings will be what, if any, duty of care Harvard owed to the victim under the facts and circumstances of this case as they are proven in a courtroom.
Source: The Boston Globe, “Mother of Justin Cosby, who was fatally shot in Harvard dorm, files suit against college,” John R. Ellement, May 24, 2012