Campus, News

Law firm seeks BU students with sexual assault claims against SHS

The waiting area in Boston University’s Student Health Services. Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman posted an advertisement encouraging students with allegations against SHS to contact their firm. KANKANIT WIRIYASAJJA /DFP FILE PHOTO

Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman recently posted an advertisement online seeking students who may have been subjected to sexual assault or harassment during a physical examination at Boston University’s Student Health Services.

The advertisement did not outline any specific allegations against SHS or its doctors and instead encouraged students with allegations against SHS to contact the law firm immediately.

“If you experienced inappropriate touching, harassment, lewd or unwanted comments, assault or any other unwanted or threatening behavior from a doctor during your visit to BU’s Student Health Center, you may have rights against the university and its staff,” the advertisement says.

BU spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in an email that neither he nor SHS Director Judy Platt have received any reports of sexual misconduct.

“We are not aware of any such concerns at this time,” Riley wrote. “Also, we encourage students to let us know of any concerns they may have so we may look into them.”

Hagens Berman spokesperson Ashley Klann wrote in an email that the legal team was not able to comment on pending investigations that have yet to be filed.

Instead, Klann pointed to an example of a recent sexual abuse lawsuit involving Hagens Berman against the University of Southern California’s former gynecologist that, according to the law firm’s website, resulted in a $215 million settlement.

Nancy Moore, a professor of legal ethics at the BU School of Law, said she found the situation “really interesting.”

“Usually, in my experience, firms are looking for an area where they have strong reason to believe that multiple claims exist,” Moore said. “I’ve never heard of a firm doing this where there hasn’t been a news account that suggests that there is some kind of serious problem here.”

Moore confirmed that the advertisement is entirely legal, despite the fact that it was not accompanied by any reports of sexual assault.

“It’s considered a form of almost a public service in the sense that you’re giving people information,” Moore said. “So, as long as everything they say on the site is truthful and not misleading, then there is nothing that prevents them from using these kinds of ads.”

However, Moore said she had legal concerns about the next section of the advertisement, which has a description of the firm’s previous USC lawsuit next to the bolded figure of $240 million.

Moore thought this could potentially mislead students into thinking that there was a chance for monetary gain.

James Warren, a junior in the College of Engineering, said he was not sure whether he should trust the advertisement, as there were no reports of this kind of sexual assault.

“It seems strange …” Warren said. “I feel like I would have heard something about that if it was valid. I mean, I would hope that people would come forward with their concerns.”

College of Fine Arts freshman Emma Foley said she thought no students should be prevented from coming forward with allegations.

“I think we should always be encouraging people to come forward because no matter what, it’s a hard thing to do,” Foley said.

Nicole Wilkes, a College of Communication junior, said she was confused as to why the law firm would release the advertisement without including any examples of allegations against BU.

“That’s kind of wild, it’s kind of hard to understand what the gain is, because I’m in COM, and I’m trying to think of the benefit of putting that out there, because there is risk in putting something out there when you … might not have the backing to substantiate it afterwards,” she said.

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