Weird Science at the SHIELD Academy

Back in my day in the 1980s, socially awkward geniuses just used science to make a woman out of a doll. Advanced weapon systems on a B1 bomber with a laser were used to pop the largest Jiffy Pop Popcorn even.

SHIELD-IceColdBut at the SHIELD Academy, awkward cadets freeze people with a higher success rate than Dr. Horrible and create lethal super storms in Sharknado-sized acts of treason.

What obligations would the SHIELD Academy have to its students to protect them from the actions of other students who were “bad seeds”?

The answer at a high school school would be fairly easy.

In a case whether a student made a knife in metal shop (back in 1956) and another student was injured by a third student throwing the knife, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment for the Defendant. The Court held the teacher could have seen the knife throwing and the issue should have gone to the jury. Lilienthal v. San Leandro Unified School Dist., 139 Cal. App. 2d 453, 455
(Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1956).

In a case where a student was injured by a student in the science lab after school, a Court again found the teacher and school district would be responsible, despite it being after school. Nash v Port Wash. Union Free School Dist., 83 A.D.3d 136, 139 (N.Y. App.
Div. 2d Dep’t 2011).

The SHIELD Academy does not have high school age students, but adults. What are the rules with colleges keeping students safe from other students?

Many Courts take the view that there is no “special relationship” between college students and a college to protect them from a third party harming the students. Crow v. State of California, 222 Cal. App. 3d 192, 200 (Cal. App. 3d Dist. 1990). Or as one Court explained, “colleges today in general have no legal duty to shield their students from the dangerous activity of other students.” Eiseman v. State, 70 N.Y.2d 175, 189 (N.Y. 1987). Simply put, Courts did not want to turn colleges into parents with the responsibility of making sure students were in bed with a curfew.

SHIELDDormRoomOther Courts have taken a very different view and have allowed some liability for a college. As one Court explained:

“The university is not an insurer of the safety of its students nor a policeman of student morality, nonetheless, it has a duty to regulate and supervise foreseeable dangerous activities occurring on its property. That duty extends to the negligent or intentional activities of third persons. Because of the extensive freedom enjoyed by the modern university student, the duty of the university to regulate and supervise should be limited to those instances where it exercises control. Situations arising out of the ownership of land, within the contemplation of § 344, involving student invitees present on the property for the purposes permitted them are within such limitations.”

Furek v. University of Delaware, 594 A.2d 506, 521-522 (Del. 1991).

Further drawing a distinction between a college and the SHIELD Academy is the fact SHIELD is closer to a military academy with cadets. In theory, this creates an employer-employee relationship, not to mention an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

Dorm room inspections probably were the norm at the Ops SHIELD Academy. However, given the fact Fitz said his dorm room had laundry on the floor, this likely was not the case at SHIELD’s Science Academy.

Two cadets at the SHIELD Academy built a “freeze bomb” that turned into a WMD in a student dorm room for sale to an international terrorist. Such a device certainly violated SHIELD Academy rules, plus a few Federal and state laws.

SHIELDDormInspectionsSHIELD has a high likelihood of liability for the actions of their students. First, the “freeze bomb” was built in a dorm room and likely in violation of many Academy rules. Students playing mad scientist on school property scream liability. Moreover, the Academy would have an obligation to protect its students as a landlord and as an employer to provide a safe environment for the cadets. WMD’s being built in dorms are absolutely not a safe environment.

Second, the cadets are learning how to develop advanced weapons and other dangerous technology at the Academy. Cameras and other security measures were mentioned by Simmons, thus explaining the existence of the “boiler room” turned bar without the administration’s oversight (and probably violating all laws on liquor licenses). Given the fact the Academy was on notice of possible threats, as evidence by the security measures, this also might be a factor in finding some liability for the school.

That being said, the material used to design the “freeze bombs” were funded by a third party and not with material from the Academy. The cadets were also able to maintain the device’s secret until they launched their plan. All of these actions could be superseding factors to limit liability for SHIELD for the property damage from the storm and any injured cadets.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, the ABA Web 100 for Best Legal Blog and Podcast categories, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.