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Susan Donnelly Murphy and Lisa Oliver White Prevail on Summary Judgment

Susan Donnelly Murphy and Lisa Oliver White recently prevailed on a Motion for Summary Judgment resulting in the dismissal of all claims against their clients in a negligent security case. Susan and Lisa represented a Massachusetts non-profit who ran a therapeutic residential school for youth with behavioral and mental health issues.


Plaintiff, who worked for the state agency that had guardianship over the minor assailant, was attacked by her ward during a meeting that took place at the residential school. Plaintiff argued that the residential school had a duty to ensure that the premises was reasonably safe with adequate security, and Defendants were negligent in permitting the assault to occur.


After a hearing on the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court found that the Defendants did not owe Plaintiff a duty of care under the circumstances as a matter of law, and further, that the Defendants did not cause Plaintiff’s injuries as a matter of law, and dismissed all of Plaintiff’s claims.


Susan and Lisa argued that the undisputed evidence established that Plaintiff knew of the minor’s background and history of violence, there was no evidence of any particular threat to Plaintiff, and Plaintiff did not express any security concerns to Defendants. The Court agreed, reasoning that the unanticipated assault of Plaintiff by the minor was not reasonably foreseeable to Defendants, and that imposing liability on Defendants would be against public policy.


Susan and Lisa, as well as the Court, relied upon Foley v. Boston Hous. Authy., and the similar line of cases, in which summary judgment was granted for defendants, holding there was no duty to prevent an unforeseeable attack. See Foley, 407 Mass. 640, 645 (1990) (upholding summary judgment for defendants, attack by coworker not reasonably foreseeable, and thus no duty owed, where plaintiff was not threatened by or afraid of assailant, did not tell security that worried about safety, did not think assailant presented danger, and had no warning of attack).

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