Florida A&M University said it is not responsible for the hazing death last fall of drum major Robert Champion.
In a response filed Sept. 10 to a wrongful death lawsuit, the school deplored the incident and said the student should have stopped the ritual and that the state of Florida should not be held liable. Florida A&M is a state institution.
“Mr. Champion should have refused to participate in the planned hazing event and reported it to law enforcement or University administrators,” the court documents say according to CNN. “Under these circumstances, Florida’s taxpayers should not be held financially liable to Mr. Champion’s Estate for the ultimate result of his own imprudent, avoidable and tragic decision and death.”
Last November, Champion was allegedly beaten to death by fellow band members in a ritual they called “Crossing Bus C.” The fallout of that incident continues as the band is suspended through this school year and 14 band members face criminal charges. The school’s former president, James Ammons, resigned, while the band director, Julian White, retired.
Defendants in the suit are the school’s board of trustees, the company that owns the bus in which the abuse occurred, and the driver of the bus.
According to reports, FAMU is asking that the suit be dismissed because he not only participated in the ritual, but witnessed others participate in it as well. The school asked how it could be held responsible for something that was held after hours in a non-university sanctioned event.
“In the final analysis, neither Mr. Champion, Mr. Hollis, hotel security, nor law enforcement experts — with all their specialized crime prediction and prevention training and resources — were able to predict or prevent this shocking and depraved hazing incident, and therefore, it would be unfair and illogical to hold FAMU to a different and higher level of omnipotence,” the document said according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Meanwhile, Champion’s family attorney said the family was disappointed in the university’s response. He said someone at the school should have to answer for incident.
“Someone has got to hold FAMU accountable,” Champion family attorney Christopher Chestnut told the Associated Press. “We are now more committed than ever to litigate this case to clear Robert’s name and eradicate the culture of hazing for the safety of future students.”