GRAND FORKS — Two women who were raped at gunpoint as University of North Dakota students in 2013 have sued the landlord of the apartment complex in Grand Forks where the incident happened.
Through attorneys, Nadia Campbell and Breanne Squire filed a lawsuit Thursday, Dec. 14, in Grand Forks District Court against CGV, claiming the Grand Forks company did not provide adequate security.
“Breanne and Nadia did everything they were supposed to do: they locked the door,” said Bismarck attorney Tim Purdon, who is representing Campbell and Squire with Minneapolis attorney Elizabeth Fors. “When a corporate landlord chooses not to provide the simplest, cheapest sort of backup for protection, you have a situation like here where the sliding glass door can be defeated and entered by an intruder in mere seconds without tools.”
The lawsuit stems from a criminal case against Antonio Raheem Matthews, 24, who is serving life in prison without parole. In September 2013, Matthews opened the sliding patio door to Campbell and Squire’s ground-level apartment at 3499 13th Ave. N., pointed a gun at the victims as he demanded money and forced them into a bed before he “took turns forcing (the victims) to have sexual intercourse with him,” according to a criminal complaint filed against Matthews.
“Their lives are completely changed, and all because the corporate chose not to do anything, chose not to warn them and chose profit over safety,” Fors said.
A jury found Matthews guilty on all charges, including terrorizing, two counts of robbery, two counts of felonious restraint, and two counts of gross sexual imposition, a Class AA felony that carries a life sentence. His latest appeal was dismissed Sept. 25.
CGV owns the apartment where Campbell and Squire lived at the time of the rape. The women’s attorneys said the company did not provide a brace bar for the patio door to backup the lock, making it easy for Matthews to open the door. The lawsuit alleges negligence, breach of express warranties and breach of implied warranties against CGV.
“When you come into an apartment, you assume you are entitled to believe that the locks work,” Purdon said. “If the locks don’t work, the landlord needs to warn you about that. That didn’t occur here.”
Fors said Campbell was adamant she locked the door, adding the women signed a lease saying the apartment “was fit for use as a residential premises.”
Robert Cowger, the registered agent for CGV, declined to comment on the story.
The plaintiffs have asked for compensation of at least $50,000 each for medical damages, but the women hope this case will help prevent future incidents like theirs, Purdon and Fors said.
“They don’t want this horrible, horrible thing to happen to anyone else,” Fors said. “They don’t want any other college students across the country to go through this.”
The victims requested all inquiries go through their lawyers and don’t feel comfortable talking to the media, Fors said.