Parents of former FAMU Student Sue School Following Hazing Death

FAMU made national headlines last year for an incident it would just as soon wished never happened–a student died following a brutal hazing incident. A 26-year old member of the state university’s famous “Marching 100” died aboard a school charter bus while the school was at a football game last November.

Apparently the death was caused by a severe hazing rite among band members involving new members walking along the length of the bust while other members physically abused, hit, and pummelled the walker. In this case, the student was beaten so badly during the incident that he collapsed and died from his injuries. The death was eventually ruled a homicide and thirteen people face criminal charges. Obviously criminal charges are at issue when an individual is beaten to death. Issues regarding the intention of the parties and the voluntary actions of the student will likely come into play when prosecutors work to prove that actual crimes were committed.

sun (Luz Adriana Villa A).jpgOur Florida injury lawyer knows that beyond criminal charges, these incidents often also spur civil charges. While the criminal charges relate to societal condemnation of the conduct, civil charges are intended to compensate those harmed by the conduct personally. That appears to be what happened in this case, as Reuters reported last week on the filing of a Florida wrongful death lawsuit by the parents of the slain student.

Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Wrongful death lawsuits are filed by surviving family members of one killed by the wrongdoing of others. The suits seek to compensate the survivors for the specific harm they suffered as a result of the loss.

Like all civil matters, the issue can easily get complex. For example, in this case, the suit was filed against FAMU university. FAMU is a state institution, and all “tort” lawsuits against state entities (like a school, police department, or other government entity) come with special rules. In Florida these cases must begin with the filing of a government tort claim. This lets the government know that the injured party is seeking damages. The government entity then has six months to reply to the claim. In some cases the reply may come with a settlement offer. if the offer is accepted, then the matter is essentially ended.

However, if the government entity does not respond or submit an acceptable offer, then the plaintiffs in the case are free to file a lawsuit via the traditional means with the local court system. That is why in this case the suit was filed just now, even though the incident occurred 9 months ago.

Unfortunately, even after filing the suit the family is not without legal stumbling blocks. For example, there are statutory caps on the recovery that the family can receive. The law limits claims against the state to $100,000 for a single claim and $200,000 for multiple damages. Any award above that requires explicit legislative approval.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm because of the wrongdoing of another, consider contacting the Palm Beach wrongful death attorney at our firm to see how we can help.

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