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Oakland Personal Injury Lawyer / Blog / Personal Injury / Family of Slain Freshman Sues University Over Botched Investigation

Family of Slain Freshman Sues University Over Botched Investigation


The family of Kristin Smart, a California Polytechnic State University student who went missing from campus in 1996, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university for what they claim was a botched investigation. According to the lawsuit, the university allowed the freshman’s killer to attend school despite prior accusations against him. Her body was never found. At the time, a fellow classmate named Paul Flores was the prime suspect in the investigation as he was the last to see Smart alive.

According to the lawsuit, had Cal Poly properly acted on reports of misconduct committed by Flores, conducted an investigation, and appropriately disciplined the student, he would not have been on campus and would, therefore, have been unable to murder the decedent. Additionally, Flores would have been prevented from assaulting and raping countless other women in the years after he murdered Smart.

Flores wasn’t charged with first-degree murder until 2021, nearly 25 years after the murder took place. He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

The family contends that the university did not investigate Smart’s disappearance properly and continued to allow Flores to attend school. This is despite the fact that other students had accused Flores of harassment. The lawsuit indicates that Flores had been accused of “threatening, stalking, and harassing” behavior before Smart had disappeared. Prosecutors have accused Flores of being a “serial rapist.”

The parents allege that Cal Poly failed to pursue a missing persons case properly. They only took a report four days after her disappearance despite pleas from friends who were worried about her. The lawsuit contends that the university further failed to interview witnesses in a timely manner, seal Flores’ dorm room, or inspect it until 16 days after Smart had disappeared.

The parents believe that had Cal Poly done its job, their daughter would still be alive today. They further believe that had Cal Poly not botched the investigation, Flores would have been in prison much earlier than 2021. According to the suit, Cal Poly breached its duty of care to Smart by failing to conduct a reasonable investigation in a timely manner.

It wasn’t until May 2023 when Cal Poly issued an apology to the family that the family became aware of the full scope of the university’s failings. Generally speaking, a tort arising from 1996 would be dismissed due to the statute of limitations. However, the family did not become aware of the malfeasance until 2023. Now, they are seeking justice.

The family is suing for wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress. They are seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages. Their attorney says that the family wants the university to take accountability so that something like this never happens again.

Talk to an Oakland, CA Wrongful Death Lawyer Today 

Venardi Zurada represents the interests of grieving families in wrongful death lawsuits filed against negligent defendants. Call our Oakland personal injury attorneys today to schedule a free consultation, and we can begin investigating your case right away.



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