Articles Tagged with MIT

It is not too early to consider what the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Nguyen v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, means for Institutions of Higher Education [IHEs], students and courts. A few initial observations about Nguyen are warranted.

First, the SJC made clear – again – that IHEs are “clearly not bystanders or strangers in regards to their students.” Nguyen, slip op. at 23 (citing Mullins v. Pine Manor College, 389 Mass. 47, 51-52 (1983)). The era of IHE “bystander” non-liability is over.

Second, breaking new ground, the Court held that IHEs and their employees have “a special relationship with a student and a corresponding duty to take reasonable measures to prevent [a student’s] suicide” in three circumstances. Nguyen at 29. They have an affirmative “duty to take reasonable measures under the circumstances to protect the student from self-harm[,]” where they have “actual knowledge” of: (1) a student’s suicide attempt that occurred while enrolled at the [IHE]; (2) a student’s suicide attempt recently before matriculation; or, (3) a student’s stated plans or intentions to commit suicide. See id. at 29-30. In such circumstances, “suicide is sufficiently foreseeable as the law has defined the term, even for [IHE] nonclinicians without medical training” to owe a duty. See id. at 32. The duty, at least for nonclinicians, is “limited to initiating the [IHE’s] suicide prevention protocol, and if the school has no such protocol, arranging for clinical care by trained medical professionals or, if such care is refused, alerting the student’s emergency contact[,]” — often a parent. Id. at 35-36.