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Gross v. Family Services Agency, Inc.
716 So.2d 337, Fla.App. 4 Dist., FL, 08/26/1998
Category Victim v. Third Party; Victim v. Third Party 
Topic Colleges and Universities; Colleges and Universities 
Filename Miscellaneous; Special Relationship 
Crime Sexual Assault 
Location
Prevailing Party Plaintiff 
Other Parties Nova Southeastern University 
Holding

Statement of Facts: A female graduate student, Gross, was sexually assaulted in a parking lot while leaving an off-campus internship site. Successful completion of an 11-month internship is a mandatory part of the curriculum at Nova Southeastern University ("NSU"), the university Gross attended. NSU assigned Gross to Family Services Agency, Incorporated ("FSA") for her internship. Evidence showed that NSU knew of other criminal incidents at or near the FSA parking lot prior to assigning Gross to her internship. Following the attack, Gross sued NSU and FSA for negligence. Gross settled with FSA, but NSU moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. NSU argued that it owed no duty to Gross because it did not own, operate, or control the premises where the sexual assault occurred. Gross appealed, arguing that the suit was not based in premises liability, and that NSU had a duty to exercise reasonable care in assigning her to an internship site, and had a duty to warn of foreseeable harm. Holding: The Florida Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to NSU. Under these facts, the Court held that there existed a "special relationship," such that NSU owed Gross a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect her against criminal acts of third parties. Therefore, the Court reasoned, whether NSU breached its duty to Gross was a question of fact, making summary judgment improper. 


Damage Award Not tried 
Victim's Counsel     
Plaintiff's Counsel Edna L. Caruso, Miami 
Plaintiff's Expert      
Defense Counsel Justin M. Senior, Bartley C. Miller, Fort Lauderdale; John Beranek, Tallahassee 
Defense Expert

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