A former Carleton University student who was “viciously and brutally assaulted” inside a campus dorm is suing the school for failing to protect his safety. In a case that could force every university to ramp up security, David Skidmore claims Carleton is just as responsible for his broken nose and lingering bouts of depression as the two students who allegedly attacked him. “It was a terrifying experience,” says his lawyer, Kevin Wolf. “Things like that should never happen on a university campus.”
What happened on Sept. 12, 2003, was no doubt traumatic. A first-year student at the time, Skidmore says he was punched, kicked and knocked unconscious after coming to the aid of a female neighbour who was “being harrassed” by two other students. But his lawsuit—which demands $750,000 from his assailants and the school—begs the obvious question: what more could Carleton have done to prevent such random fisticuffs?
In his statement of claim, which has yet to be tested in court, Skidmore accuses the university of a laundry list of negligence: failing to provide a “reasonably safe” residence, failing to “employ adequate security,” failing to repair a broken lock on the Stormont House door, and failing to foresee the violent tendencies of his two attackers, both of whom were off-campus students visiting the residence “illegally.” But in its statement of defence, the university insists that campus security was more than adequate, and if anyone is to blame for Skidmore’s injuries (apart from the other two students) it is Skidmore himself. In fact, the school claims he was intoxicated that night, threw the first punch, and taunted his attackers with homophobic slurs.
Now 24, Skidmore is a security guard at Canada’s Wonderland. When asked why he waited so many years to file this lawsuit, Wolf says his client hoped the physical pain and psychological trauma would eventually pass—but neither has. “His family are not litigious people, and they are not pursuing a frivolous claim,” he says. “Money is not the motivating factor. The family wants answers.”