Student sues UBC for negligence after 2016 dorm attack left her with ‘pain, suffering’

UBC student Mary Hare, the victim of an attack that took place at Totem Park in 2016, is suing the university for negligence in failing to ensure adequate safety measures in its residences. This follows last year’s trial of former UBC student Thamer Almestadi, who attacked Hare with a knife when she answered the door to her third-floor dorm room.

Almestadi appeared before BC Supreme Court Judge Margot L. Fleming in October 2017 on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. The judge found Almestadi to be not criminally responsible after the Crown and defence eventually agreed that he had “proven mental health issues.”

Almestadi was sent back to Saudi Arabia after the BC Review Board found in December 2017 that he did not pose “a significant threat” to the public. While there is still the possibility of a relapse, the board noted that “ongoing care, monitoring and early access to treatment” facilitated by his family would make the risk “manageable.”

In a notice of civil claim, Hare alleges that the attack left her with lasting physical injuries as well as depression, post-traumatic stress and anxiety.

“The injuries, loss, and damage sustained by the Plaintiff have caused and continue to cause the Plaintiff pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and permanent physical and mental disability,” reads her notice.

Accordingly, she is seeking relief for physical and psychological damages caused by the attack as well as compensation for ongoing trauma, medical care and wage loss.

The claim argues that UBC “knew or should have been aware” about the general risk of assault via forced entry, as well as the specific risk posed to Hare’s safety in face of “imminent danger.”

It also says that UBC should have installed extra security features like bolts and door viewers to avert the risk.

On the first day of the October trial, Hare testified that she barely knew Almestadi, having only spoken to him once. She did not indicate that there were any signs of violent or threatening behaviour from Almestadi before the attack.

Janani Rangarajan, a UBC residence advisor, testified during this previous trial that in a brief conversation with Almestadi “a few nights before the attack,” he sounded stressed and his tone concerned her.

In a subsequent conversation, Rangarajan asked Almestadi if he was thinking about self-harm — while he said he wasn’t considering it, he felt “paranoid and nervousness” and they talked about counselling options. She testified that this conversation took place after Almestadi’s situation was brought up to her student supervisor and staff supervisor at Totem Park.

UBC’s acting VP Students Janet Teasdale acknowledged Hare’s notice of civil claim, but declined to comment on it further as it is before the courts.

“The safety of all members of our community is of utmost priority,” said Teasdale in a written statement to The Ubyssey. “The incident was shocking and unprecedented, and we care about the impact on all of those involved.”