In a case sparked by Saint Joseph’s University’s investigation into an alleged sexual assault, the university and the alleged assault victim have filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that the facts of the investigation show no wrongdoing on their part.
The unnamed plaintiff, referred to as John Doe, sued the school in May after he was disciplined for sexual assault. Another unnamed student, referred to in documents as Jane Roe, had alleged that he squeezed her neck when they were kissing one night, leaving a bruise.
All three parties in the case filed their summary judgment motions Monday.
St. Joe’s argued that Doe cannot sue for breach of contract, asserting that the school’s investigator, a Cozen O’Connor lawyer, adhered to the school’s definition of sexual assault while probing Roe’s claims. As for Doe’s allegation that the school defamed him, St. Joe’s argued that were it not for him bringing a civil lawsuit detailing the matter, the investigation would have been kept confidential.
“John would have this court believe that SJU breached its contract with him because, he will say, the rough conduct in which he was found to have engaged—non-consensual choking and bruising during a sexual encounter—does not qualify as a sexual assault under the [Sexual Misconduct Policy],” the university’s motion said.
However, the school continued, its definition of sexual assault includes “‘any sexual contact other than intercourse with another person without that person’s consent and/or cognizance. It includes any non-consensual sexual contact, including improper touching of intimate body parts.’”
The alleged victim, Roe, has also argued that by bringing her claims, she did not defame Doe. Her statements were true, her motion said, and are privileged.
Doe also filed a motion for summary judgment with regard to St. Joe’s counterclaim, which seeks attorney fees from Doe for the action. Doe argued that it is the university’s policy not to provide students accused of sexual misconduct with any of the investigative materials prior to a hearing before the investigator. In this case, he said, that included Roe’s complaint, text messages from her phone and photos of the bruise.
“When [lawyer Elizabeth] Malloy conducted her hearing with Doe, all that he knew about Roe’s claim against him was that he had been ‘rough’ with her,” Doe’s motion for summary judgment said. “This was SJU’s policy: to deny the accused student nearly all information about the charges against him until his ‘hearing’ with an investigator so as ‘not to compromise the investigation.’”
In a statement Thursday, a spokeswoman for St. Joe’s said, “The matter is before the court, and out of respect for the judicial process, Saint Joseph’s University will respond in that forum.”
Susan Engle of Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers, who is representing Roe, also declined to comment on the case.
Edward Schwabenland, one of Doe’s lawyers, did not return a call seeking comment.