SWBTS denies liability in sex abuse lawsuit

by Diana Chandler, posted Thursday, August 08, 2019 (14 days ago)

SHERMAN, Texas (BP) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary says it is not liable for any monetary damages to a former student who claims in a lawsuit she was raped on campus at gunpoint by a student SWBTS employed.

SWBTS filed legal documents Wednesday (Aug. 7) answering the lawsuit by plaintiff "Jane Roe," according to the Eastern District of Texas federal court in Sherman.

Roe, no longer attending SWBTS, claims she was forcibly raped at gunpoint on at least three occasions from October 2014 through April 2015 by a fellow student identified as "John Doe," whom Roe said was employed as an SWBTS plumber.

"Plaintiffs damages, if any, were proximately caused by unforeseeable, independent intervening, or superseding events beyond the control, and unrelated to the conduct of SWBTS," the seminary's response reads. "SWBTS's actions and omissions, if any, were superseded by such unforeseeable, independent, intervening and superseding events, and as such SWBTS is not liable."

SWBTS lists 26 affirmative defenses to the lawsuit, including that the plaintiff's claim for punitive damages violates the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as sections 3, 9, 13 and 19 of Article 1 of the Texas Constitution.

SWBTS also denies numerous allegations of the lawsuit, refuting the plaintiff's claim that the seminary had a duty to protect Roe and similarly situated students from "the risk of dating and domestic violence, sexual abuse and/or sexual assault, such as the duty to properly warn, train or educate Roe and other students about how to avoid such a risk."

SWBTS, represented by the law firm of Macdonald Devin P.C., is asking the court to dismiss the suit and to levy against the plaintiff court costs and any further relief the court might deem just and proper.

Former SWBTS President Paige Patterson, whose service was terminated in May 2018, is also named as a defendant in the case. Patterson was issued a summons July 22 in the lawsuit, according to documents filed in federal court, but he had not responded by Baptist Press publication time Thursday (Aug. 8).

The case was originally filed March 11 under the plaintiff's official name, but was refiled May 22 after the court granted use of the pseudonym Jane Roe, according to court documents.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.
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