The family of Robert Champion is planning on suing Florida A&M University for his wrongful death. Champion, a drum major, died on November 19 following a suspected hazing incident.
Christopher was discovered on a bus a day after FAMU’s football team lost a game. Police believe that hazing was an incident and the family’s wrongful death lawyer says that the injuries sustained by the 26-year-old are in line with ones someone might suffer from such activities.
Following Christopher’s death, the school’s band director was fired and performances for the university’s marching band and music department were cancelled. Florida Governor Rick Scott says the state plans to get involved in the investigation.
For now, there is no official cause for Christopher’s death. Initial autopsy results came back inconclusive.
Unfortunately, hazing involving marching bands—especially at black colleges—is not uncommon. In 2001, another FAMU student, Marcus Parker, sustained kidney damage after he was beaten with a paddle. There have also been other allegations involving the university’s marching band and music department over the years, including the use of hazing to initiate new members. Hazing is considered a third-degree felony in Florida.
Schools and universities are responsible for properly supervising students and student groups and creating a safe environment so that serious injuries or deaths don’t occur. When failure to fulfill this duty allows for a student to get hurt or die, the school and others who were negligent can be held liable.
One wrongful death case making national headlines is a federal lawsuit filed by the Boca father of Bradley Ginsburg. The 18-year-old, who was a freshman and economics major at Cornell University, committed suicide off a high bridge over Fall Creek in February. Two students followed suit in the weeks after his death.
Now, Bradley’s dad Howard Ginsburg, who is also a Cornell alumni member, is suing the school for $180 million. He believes that his son wouldn’t have been able to jump if safety measures and barriers had been erected on the bridge. Between 1990 and 2010, there were 27 suicides and two failed jumps from several bridges, including those that are owned by Cornell.
Elementary and high schools can also be held accountable for negligence resulting in injuries or death. In South Florida, the family of a high school student who was fatally stabbed in 2009 has reached a $1.8 million Coral Gables wrongful death settlement with the Miami-Dade School Board. Juan Carlos Rivera’s family claimed that inadequate security, lax supervision, and other negligent acts allowed the altercation between Rivera and a fellow student to escalate until it turned fatal.
In an unrelated case, Randi Vanderheyden recently sued Broward County School District for Coral Springs injuries to a minor after her 12-year-old daughter Breann tried to kill herself. Vanderheyden blames the school for not creating a safe environment, which allowed the girl to be repeatedly bullied. The family is seeking damages for emotional trauma, mental anguish, and medical expenses.
Family to sue FAMU following drum major's death, 11 Alive, November 26, 2011
Miami-Dade Schools To Pay $1.875 Million In Gables High Stabbing, CBS Miami, November 18, 2011
Mom Sues Over School Bullying, South Florida Times, November 16, 2011
More Blog Posts:
University of Central Florida Freshman May Have Been Drinking At Fraternity Party Prior to Her Death, Florida Injury Attorney Blog, August 26, 2011
Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit Blames Volusia County for Truck Accident on Beach that Killed 4-Year-Old, Florida Injury Attorney Blog, August 11, 2011
$2.4M Palm Beach County Wrongful Death Verdict Awarded to 87-Year-Old Lake Worth Widow, Florida Injury Attorney Blog, April 13, 2011