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FAMU Sued by Parents of Marching Band Hazing Victim

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

Robert Champion's parents are suing Florida A&M University for their son's wrongful death after a brutal hazing ritual last fall, the Associated Press reports.

Fellow band members from FAMU's famous "Marching 100" pummeled Champion, 26, a drum major from Decatur, Ga., aboard a charter bus at an away game in November. Champion's death was ruled a homicide, and 13 people face criminal charges.

Champion's parents have already filed lawsuits against the charter bus company and the bus driver. So why did they have to wait until now to sue FAMU?

The answer lies in the process required for a victim to sue the government.

Because FAMU is a state university, a victim who wishes to sue the school (via its trustees or other officials) must first file a government tort claim. The claim notifies the government entity that a victim is seeking damages for an injury or wrongful death.

Under Florida law, a wrongful death claim against a state entity must be submitted in writing within two years of the incident. The entity then has six months to reply, perhaps with a settlement offer.

But if the state entity denies the claim or fails to respond within six months, that clears the way for a victim to sue the government. That's why Robert Champion's parents had to wait six months to add FAMU to their lawsuit.

Florida law also caps damage awards against the state at $100,000 for a single claim, or $200,000 for multiple claims arising from the same incident. If a jury awards more than that amount, Florida's legislature must approve it.

In their FAMU hazing lawsuit, Robert Champion's parents allege the school failed to act to stop hazing when they knew it was pervasive, and failed to adequately monitor band members. FAMU's president resigned Wednesday because of the hazing scandal, USA Today reports.

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