Court Case: Lisa Simpson, et al. v. University of Colorado

Case adopted 02/05


Case History

Lisa Simpson, former student at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) from 2000 to 2004, sued the university under of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for failing to remedy the sexually hostile environment on campus that led to her sexual assault and harassment by university football recruits and players. Another female student filed a separate complaint against the university (now consolidated with Simpson’s) that alleged similar facts.

Simpson alleges that on a night in December 2001, she and a few other female friends were drinking at her off-campus apartment and became intoxicated. She claims that one of the women at the apartment, who was a tutor for CU’s football team, mentioned that a few of her friends, who were football players, would be visiting that night. Ultimately, approximately 16-20 football players and recruits, many of whom were intoxicated, arrived at Simpson’s apartment. Simpson alleges that a little while after the group arrived, she went to her bedroom and fell asleep, but awoke a short time later to find two recruits removing her clothing. She alleges that she was sexually assaulted by numerous recruits and football players, and observed that another female student was being sexually assaulted by at least one football player in the same room.

Early the next morning, Simpson’s roommate took her to a community hospital, where she reported the sexual assaults to hospital staff. She declined a rape kit examination at that time, but received one two days later. Simpson’s roommate also reported the events to CU’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and the director of the university’s Office of Victim’s Assistance the day after the events took place. Simpson states that following an investigation, CU’s Office of Judicial Affairs charged several of the involved football players with code of conduct violations, but declined to pursue sexual assault charges against the students involved. She notes that none of the CU football players lost his eligibility to play in any subsequent football games.

The county’s district attorney’s office pressed felony charges against several of the football players and imposed a “no contact order” against two of them, prohibiting any contact with Simpson. She claims that despite this, CU’s head football coach continued to recruit another one of her alleged assailants.

Simpson, a former high school honor student, maintains that her academics severely declined following her experience. She alleges that not only did her grades fall, but she also dropped several classes and reduced her class hours significantly. In February 2004, she left CU without obtaining her degree.

Simpson asserts that since at least the fall of 1995, CU has known about sexual assaults, alcohol abuse, and other illicit activities that occur during school-sponsored campus visits by football recruits. To support this allegation, she notes that over the course of the past several years, numerous young women have reported to CU officials that they were sexually assaulted by football players and recruits during these visits. Simpson states that despite knowing about these activities, and against the advice of the county’s district attorney’s office, CU has failed to adequately remedy the sexually hostile environment.

Simpson filed a complaint in federal court in December 2002. In March 2005, a federal district court granted the University of Colorado’s motion for summary judgment with prejudice, dismissing the plaintiffs’ case in its entirety and ordering the plaintiffs to pay the university’s costs. The plaintiffs filed a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment or for Relief from Judgment. On September 6, 2007, the Tenth Circuit ruled in favor of Simpson, concluding there was sufficient evidence for a jury to return a verdict in her favor and overturning the summary judgment in favor of the University of Colorado. On October 10, 2007, the University of Colorado filed a Petition for Rehearing, which the Court denied on November 9, 2007.

On December 5, 2007, the University of Colorado at Boulder announced that it had agreed to pay Simpson a $2.5 million settlement.

Key Issues

Sexual assault and harassment in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.