Student slashed in dorm-room knife attack sues UBC for negligence

The victim claims she suffered from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder following the attack by an international student undergoing a psychotic episode.

Mary Hare claims university should have been aware of the risk of forced entry into students' rooms

UBC international student Mary Hare was attacked with a knife in her dorm room in 2016. She is now suing the university for negligence. (CBC News )

The University of B.C. is facing a lawsuit from a student whose throat was slashed after she opened the door of her dormitory residence to an international student who was undergoing a psychotic episode.

In a B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim, Mary Helen Hare claims the incident has left her suffering anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

She blames the October 2016 attack on the university's negligence.

"UBC knew or should have been aware of the risk of forced entry into rooms and assaults and/or persons entering student residence rooms," the lawsuit reads.

"UBC knew or should have been aware of the need for the installation of additional security bolts, chains, bars, latches or stoppers ... and/or door viewers ... on the dorm room doors."

'He had a knife to my throat'

Hare's attacker, Thameer Hameed Almestadi was found not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder following a B.C. Supreme Court trial in October 2017.

Both Hare and Almestadi were first year international students. Almestadi, who was 18 at the time of the attack, is from Saudi Arabia. Hare, who was 19, is from Oregon.

Thamer Hameed Almestadi was found not criminally responsible for attacking Hare by reason of mental disorder. He is now back in Saudi Arabia. (Facebook)

According to the notice of civil claim, she was living on the third floor of Salish House, a student residence on the UBC campus. The lawsuit says Almestadi was living in a shared room on the floor above.

Almestadi's grades had slipped and he was depressed in the period leading up to the incident. 

He suffered a psychotic break while listening to a religious recording which left him believing he was being tested by God.

Hare testified at the trial.

"I just opened the door and was attacked with a knife ... He had a knife to my throat. I just didn't know what was going on .. I just started screaming: 'Somebody help me,'" she said.

"I fought him off. I did everything I could have done. I don't have any regrets about what I did ... I know that I was as strong as I could have been."

A pair of fellow students were credited with likely saving Hare's life by rushing to the scene and placing Almestadi in a chokehold.

'She was at risk of imminent danger'

Hare's lawsuit accuses the university of negligence.

She says her injuries will continue to cause her "pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and permanent physical and mental disability."

Mary Hare claims UBC failed to take precautions while knowing or having ought to have known that she was at risk. The university has not filed a response. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Hare claims UBC failed to take "care for (her) safety while knowing, or having ought to have known that she was at risk of imminent danger, violence and/or threat."

She also says the university failed to install locking mechanisms in the residence hallway that might have allowed her door to be opened while preventing the "unwanted entry of potential assailants."

The lawsuit claims UBC also failed to install a viewer that would have allowed her to observe outside the door in a safe manner.

'The risk is high'

A little more than a month after Almestadi was found not criminally responsible, he was sent back to Saudi Arabia after the B.C. Review Board discharged him from custody.

The review board decision noted that Almestadi comes from a prominent family which has retained a psychiatrist in Jeddah to provide treatment.

Review board member Paula Cayley disagreed with the decision to send Almestadi home.

"Mr. Almestadi is likely to suffer another psychotic break. The risk of a future episode of violence seems very linked to the risk that Mr. Almestadi will experience another psychotic break," she wrote.

"The risk is high — it is more likely than not that it will occur and that it will be rapid."

UBC has not filed a response to Hare's claim.

In an emailed statement, acting vice-president Janet Teasdale said the university is aware of the case but won't comment on the details.

"The safety of all members of our community is of utmost priority," Teasdale wrote. "The incident was shocking and unprecedented, and we care about the impact on all of those involved."

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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