FAMU Hazing Death Leads to Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit and Criminal Charges

by Carmen Dellutri on May 15, 2012

Port Charlotte injury attorneyProsecutors have announced that criminal charges have been filed in the hazing death of a Florida A&M University band member. Thirteen people face charges for their involvement in the death of 26-year-old Robert Champion, who died aboard a chartered bus parked outside an Orlando hotel following a band performance.

As Cape Coral injury attorneys, we are concerned that hazing is likely taking place in other Florida colleges and universities. In fact, this is not the first reported hazing incident at FAMU.

As reported by the Associated Press, Champion was severely beaten by band members during the hazing on the bus and had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back, authorities said. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers Champion was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard the bus.

State Attorney Lawson Lamar said 11 of the 13 people will face a hazing resulting death charge, a third-degree felony. If convicted, they could face up to nearly six years in prison. The other two people will face misdemeanor charges.

Florida's hazing law was passed in 2005 after the death of University of Miami student Chad Meredith. Meredith was drunk when he drowned trying to swim across a lake as part of a fraternity initiation. Although criminal charges were not filed in his case, a jury awarded Meredith's parents $12 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against the fraternity.

Similarly, in this case, even if the defendants are cleared of criminal charges, they may still be held accountable for damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. In fact, a wrongful death case is often easier to win because the claims do not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

As we discussed in relation to the Trayvon Martin case, death is considered “wrongful” when a person is killed as a result of the negligence or misconduct of another person, company, or entity. In order to succeed in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit, Champion’s parents will have to prove that death was caused by another party’s negligent or intentional conduct, and that they have suffered damages as a result of the death.

Champion's parents have already filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owns the bus where the hazing took place. The complaint contends that the bus driver stood guard outside the bus while the hazing took place. In light of the recent criminal charges, additional parties could be named in the civil lawsuit.

The Dellutri Law Group is focused on making bad situations better and putting lives back together. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Florida hazing incident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.

To learn more about your legal options, contact our experienced Cape Coral injury attorneys for a free consultation. 

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