Annie Le Family Files Lawsuit Against Yale

Wrongful death suit says Yale did too little to protect murdered Le, others.

ByABC News
September 7, 2011, 12:00 PM

Sept. 7, 2011— -- Nearly two years to the day that she was murdered, the family of Yale graduate student Annie Le has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university. The suit, filed Tuesday in Connecticut Superior Court in New Haven, claims Yale failed to adequately protect women for years, accusing the college of insufficiently addressing incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus.

The university took "inadequate steps to ensure the safety and security of women on its campus" in the years before Le's murder, the suit claims. The court action also asserts that Yale botched the search for Le after she went missing in September of 2009.

Le's body was found that month stuffed in a wall behind a toilet in the lab building on Yale's campus where she did pharmacology research. She had gone missing for more than a week and the discovery was made days before the San Jose, Calif., native, 24, was to be married.

Raymond Clark III, an animal research technician who worked in the same building, pleaded guilty to murdering Le in March and was sentenced to 44 years in prison three months later.

In a statement, Yale officials said that the lawsuit had no merit and no additional security measures could have prevented the killing.

"The university will defend against it as appropriate," the statement read, in part.

"Yale had no information indicating that Raymond Clark was capable of committing this terrible crime, and no reasonable security measures could have prevented his unforeseeable act," the statement said.

The suit, which names Yale University and its medical school, is seeking an unspecified amount of money, but legal experts believe damages and legal fees could total in the millions of dollars.

"Yale will certainly argue that many of the claims made by the Le family's attorney had nothing to with Annie's death," ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams said. "But even if Yale's legal team believes they could win the suit, this is the type of case that will likely result in an out-of-court financial settlement."

This is not the first time Yale has had to defend itself against claims that the university fails to protect women on campus.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights announced in April that it was investigating complaints by Yale students that the university failed to properly respond to sexual harassment concerns.

The Le family civil suit cites the federal probe of a complaint from current and former Yale students about violations of Title IX , one of several educational reforms passed in 1972 that prohibits the exclusion of anyone on the basis of sex from educational programs directly funded by the federal government.

"Yale's persistent tolerance of sexual harassment and sexual assaults on campus caused students to file [the] complaint against Yale University," the Le family's lawyers, New York-based Joseph Tacopina and Stamford, Conn.-based Paul Slager, said in a statement.

"And, just five days before she was to be married, Annie Le was a victim of that environment."

After Le's murder, Yale updated its workplace violence prevention policy, stating that the university had "zero tolerance" for violent and threatening behavior.

The university also added violence-prevention training for curriculum managers, and background checks for temporary workers hired through agencies, as well as vendors with electronic access to Yale's buildings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.