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Beul v. ASSE Int'l, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for Seventh Circuit
233 F.3d 441 (2000)


Facts

Kristin Beul (plaintiff), a 16-year-old German exchange student, was placed by ASSE Int’l, Inc. (ASSE) (defendant) with a Wisconsin host family. Marianne Breber, a volunteer representative of ASSE, placed Beul with the Bruce family: Richard, his wife, and their 13-year-old daughter. Beul arrived in Wisconsin on September 7, 1995. ASSE was subject to federal regulations designed to protect the welfare of foreign exchange students. The regulations required ASSE to regularly monitor the safety and progress of placements and to schedule recurring contact with the student and the host family. An industry association to which ASSE belonged also required its members to maintain abundant, regular contact with students’ host families and schools. For the first four and a half months of Beul’s visit, Breber met with her just once, for a brief orientation with another student. Breber spoke with Beul by phone once or twice but always while Beul was in the presence of a host family member. In November 1995, Richard raped Beul. The two then began a sexual relationship. That winter, Beul missed 27 days of school. Richard told Beul he would kill himself if she told anyone what was going on. In January 1996, after Beul and Richard told Breber that Mrs. Bruce appeared to be jealous of Richard’s time with Beul, Breber went to the Bruce home for dinner. Breber did not seek to speak privately with Beul or Mrs. Bruce. In February, Mrs. Bruce told Breber that she and Richard were divorcing and that Beul should be placed with another family. Beul refused to leave; on February 22, a sheriff’s deputy came to remove her. Breber called Beul’s school to let them know she would be out for a few days, at which point Breber learned of Beul’s many absences. Beul lived with Breber for a few days, but Breber never asked about her relationship with Richard. Beul and Richard continued to correspond. In April, Mrs. Bruce found some of the correspondence and contacted police. Having sex with a 16-year-old was a misdemeanor. After being interviewed by police, Richard committed suicide. Beul sued ASSE in a federal district court. A jury found Beul to be 41 percent at fault for her injury. ASSE was determined to be 59 percent at fault. Accordingly, of the total damages of $1,100,000, Beul was awarded 59 percent, or $649,000. ASSE appealed, citing insufficient proof of causation.

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Holding and Reasoning (Posner, J.)

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