Hazing victim’s parents not interested in FAMU’s $300K offer, lawyer says
Florida A&M University student and band member Robert Champion Jr., 26, died in November 2011.
November 8th, 2012
05:35 PM ET

Hazing victim’s parents not interested in FAMU’s $300K offer, lawyer says

Florida A&M University has offered $300,000 - the maximum it says it can offer without state legislative action - as a settlement to the family of Robert Champion Jr., the drum major who died after a hazing ritual last year, a university attorney said Thursday.

But the family’s attorney, Chris Chestnut, said that the offer is an insult, and that the family will not consider it.

The offer, filed in Florida circuit court, aims to settle a lawsuit that Champion’s family filed against the school’s board of trustees in July.

“FAMU has offered the Champions the absolute maximum amount allowable by law,” FAMU attorney Richard Mitchell said. “Anything more would require a special act approved by the state legislature.

“It is our hope that this settlement will be accepted and can in some way help in the healing process for the Champion family and the entire FAMU community.”

Champion, 26, died in November 2011 following being beaten on a bus in Orlando, Florida, after a football game at which the school's famed marching band performed.

The hazing was part of a ritual known as crossing the bus, an initiation process in which pledges attempt to run down the center aisle from the front door of the bus to the back while being punched, kicked and assaulted by senior members, band members have said.

A medical examiner's office ruled his death a homicide and said Champion "collapsed and died within an hour of a hazing incident during which he suffered multiple blunt trauma blows to his body." An autopsy found "extensive contusions of his chest, arms, shoulder and back" as well as "evidence of crushing areas of subcutaneous fat."

Fourteen people have been charged criminal hazing in the case. One of them, a student, pleaded no contest and was sentenced last month to six months of community control (requiring he document his comings and goings, and request permission for any trips), two years of supervised probation and 200 hours of community service.

In addition to suing FAMU’s board of trustees, it has sued the company that owns the bus in which the abuse occurred, and the driver of the bus.

In September, FAMU responded to the lawsuit by filing court documents saying that the institution was not responsible for Champion’s death. The school asserted Champion broke the law and school policies when he willingly took part in the hazing that left him dead.

soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. mmi16

    Fat chance in getting the Florida legislature to pass Special Legislation for a settlement greater than that already allowed by law. No amount of money will make them whole for the loss of their son. However, their son was 26 – a grown man and responsible for his own actions. The longer the parents keep this case alive the longer it will take for them to heal from their loss.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
  2. Todd

    Why post a comment CNN wants the politically correct comments.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. John

    "But the family’s attorney, Chris Chestnut, said that the offer is an insult, and that the family will not consider it." Really? The offer is an insult? I wonder how much they think it should be. You know, especially since the school, as a whole, had nothing to do with the hazing incident itself and that the victim had agreed to go along with it, if I am not mistaken.

    November 9, 2012 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Chocoholic

      Yes, the school, as a (w)hole, IS a part of those responsible.

      Heck, the lawyers are the only 'winners' – I'm sure they are eah being paid more than 300...

      November 9, 2012 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
    • AGeek

      The victim is dead. Your claim seems implausible.

      November 9, 2012 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
    • FTFY

      school officials were aware of the "hazing process".

      November 9, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. MikeNGermany

    ah, 300,000 is what – at most (and this is a lowballing) 10 years of lost income his family would possibly be able to earn. more likely, it would be like 5 years. Sounds like a insult to me too if the school is somehow determined liable. How much do Florida politicians make a year?

    November 9, 2012 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
    • amy

      was he making $60K per year, or even $30K per year? what was he earning between ages 18 and 26?

      how much did the parents have his life insured for?

      $300,000.00 sure as heck doesn't sound like an insult to me

      November 11, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dennis

    Well hell let's sue the makers of the tires that went on the bus too. Sorry but your "kid" was 26 YEARS OLD. If he is still that prone to peer pressure than he really didn't have the maturity to be in college anyway. If he were forced by anyway OTHER than verbal taunts then fine but he WASN'T. He CHOSE to participate in this activity and now because he died mommy and daddy wanna get lawsuit happy. Lawyer was probably an ambulance chaser who saw his chances to me into the big time.

    November 9, 2012 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
    • SHERRY

      What comic books do you read, if you can read at all. This has been going on for years. If the they want to keep up the hazing do you really believe they are going to let the kid go?? NO, THEY WANT TO DO HARM TO ANYONE AND EVERYONE. The school knows all to well what is going on and until they do stop it they should pay.

      November 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Whome

    It's all about the money.

    November 9, 2012 at 6:09 am | Report abuse |
  7. Corey

    Once the lawyer takes his 1/3, and taxes take a nice bite out of the rest, the offer really isn't that great. It'll be around 150k. Once you subtract funeral cost reimbursement, if it was a very inexpensive, you're left with 135k. Not much consolation. By the way, during hazing stunts like this you're not suppose to literally pound the person into submission. If that were the case, nobody would survive. Something happened on that bus we're not privy too.

    November 9, 2012 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
    • sosideirish

      Thank you. Nice to be that someone isn't blaming the victim.

      November 9, 2012 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
    • AGeek

      On a $300K settlement, after taxes and attorneys, you'll *wish* you had $150K. After taxes, you're starting with $195K before anyone gets paid. Given the amount of time this has been dragging out, I'd be shocked if the family saw anything with six digits from a $300K settlement.

      November 9, 2012 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
  8. Tundra

    Sue the people that actually put their hands on your son? Sure fine makes perfect sense to me. Sue the maker of the bus and the bus driver and the school he attended? Sounds like a money grab to me.

    November 9, 2012 at 6:31 am | Report abuse |
    • queenbee

      If you sue the people who did this to him–a bunch of poor students–you get a whole bunch of nothing-the fact if you sue anyone who does not have the means to pay then the award is symbolic and not real–so the lawyer went after the school–and schools may be culpable for what occurs on their property given that they should have had someone on the bus to stop the incident–but how much they are culpable for may be up for discussion–300K may be the limit but it does not sound right–even personal insurance has more liability than that

      November 9, 2012 at 6:49 am | Report abuse |
    • AGeek

      Welcome to Personal Injury, Inc. Sue everyone who was even remotely connected – the deeper the pockets, the better. Let the courts determine actual liability. It's disgusting in the extreme.

      November 9, 2012 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. bibleverse1

    Why not sue the people? Because it is about money.

    November 9, 2012 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  10. rob0rah

    Any adult that participates in this activity is an idiot, especially when he knew what it entailed. His family shouldn't receive a dime. Their lawyer is an ambulance chaser.

    November 9, 2012 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Cuervo Jones

      sure they are, that's why they offered the maximum.

      November 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. b0bc@t

    If Johnny jumped off the Brooklyn bridge, would you jump off too?
    How many of us bowed our head and said NO to mom and dad,
    all the while knowing you would hit the water like a brick wall with a wider smile than the Cheshire Cat.

    Acceptance is hard wired into our psyche .... no amount of disclaimers or common sense will make someone choose logic to being alone, distanced from the crowd of your desired peers ... face it folks!
    Another case of misguided youth ... Starts in fun.... ends in punitive negligence damages ... er ... tragedy... SORRY!

    November 9, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kevin

    Condolences to the family but he was around my age and i would never want to be accepted by people who would hurt me. He was a grown man responsible for his own decisions but people should not have hit him even if he allowed them to do so.

    November 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. FidoSam

    It's not about the loss of their son, its now about the money. There is some fault with a 26 year old participating in this.

    November 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. FidoSam

    And let me add this. This is an example of the selfishness of our society. Are the parents thinking about what they are going to cost the state? Money that could be spent on the education of a living child? They are not thinking of the overall good of society but only their revenge.

    November 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cuervo Jones

    At Boys Town, Nebraska you ran a gauntlet every time you moved to different housing. The 'counselors' would always happen to be somewhere else. If you couldn't/wouldn't take it a pedo counselor would soon show up offering his understanding. A refusal just meant you were stomped anyway for refusing to take part in your own humiliation. This is the currency of fraternies and other orgs.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
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