University sued over records review

A former student who was assaulted in 2005 is suing the University for failing to review his attacker’s criminal history – which included an alleged stabbing months earlier in Albany, N.Y.

Akeem Samuels, 22, was hospitalized two years ago when an argument over a football game became violent outside Exchange Bar on G Street. The assailant, transfer student Chad Dauman, broke Samuels’ jaw and fractured several of his bones, according to police reports.

Two months earlier, Dauman was charged with second-degree assault in Albany after allegedly stabbing someone in the back with a knife, according to the Albany district attorney’s office. Dauman was allegedly intoxicated at the time of the attack, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s office said. The charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Several months later, Dauman transferred to GW from SUNY Albany.

The Albany case was put on hold when he was arrested again for assault in the District – that case took priority, a spokesperson said. The Albany case still has not been prosecuted.

Dauman pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court to assault with a dangerous weapon and served the majority of his six month sentence under house arrest.

Samuels’ complaint, filed two weeks ago, states the University either failed to screen for Dauman’s history or did not act upon information it had.

“Our position is when someone brings someone into the university setting, they in effect vouch for a certain level of security with regard to that person,” said Robert Tarver, Samuels’ attorney.

Tarver said it remains unclear whether the University was aware of Dauman’s prior history when he enrolled and that the primary objective of the case will be to determine what information the University knew. They are suing GW for gross negligence and negligent hiring.

Samuels is also suing Dauman for damages in addition to the $31,000 recovered in the criminal case, according to court documents.

Dauman did not return several calls from The Hatchet. Dauman’s father, Joel Dauman, said he had “nothing to say to (The Hatchet).”

University spokesperson Tracy Schario said GW was unable to comment because the University has not received the complaint.

The case was filed in federal court because the plaintiff is seeking more than $75,000 from each of the defendants.

“The University, admittedly, is in a very difficult position because the University has to be in the position of saying, ‘Look, we’re open enough to allow people access here notwithstanding problems they’ve had in life,'” Tarver said.

He added that there are many similar situations involving negligence and school violence – most recently the shootings at Virginia Tech. Each incident, he said, puts more pressure on universities to monitor their students.

“I think what happens is that every incident that occurs pushes the level of scrutiny,” Tarver said.

Hans Bader, a former attorney for the Department of Education specializing in discrimination, said it is hard to prove a University is liable for their students.

“It seems to me that it ought to be a rare case that a school is liable because they admitted somebody who had a prior conviction,” Bader said. He added that it is unreasonable to expect universities to perform criminal background checks.

“(H)ow was GW supposed to know? Are they supposed to conduct a background check?” Bader said. “It’s not something you usually do when you’re an admissions officer.”

In recent years, more courts have ruled in favor of people suing universities for the actions of their students, he said. This is most likely because schools are increasingly considered “in loco parentis” for their students – a legal term meaning in place of parents – which was less prominent in the past.

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