FAMU asks lawsuit from hazing death be dismissed

Associated Press Modified: November 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm •  Published: November 28, 2012
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Attorneys for Florida A&M University on Wednesday asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the family of a drum major who died last year after being hazed by fellow band members, claiming Robert Champion was a willing participant in the ritual.

University attorney Richard Mitchell said Champion wasn't forced to board a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel where the hazing took place. He was an adult able to make his own decisions at age 26, and he had risen through the ranks of the famed Marching 100 band without taking part in hazing until that fateful night in November 2011, Mitchell said.

Champion's willingness to take part in an illegal act gives the university immunity from the wrongful death lawsuit, Mitchell said.

"Robert Champion knew exactly what he was doing," he said. "If Mr. Champion had not gotten on that bus, he would not have been hazed."

Circuit Judge Walter Komanski didn't immediately issue a ruling.

Champion's parents filed a lawsuit contending university officials did not take action to stop hazing even though a school dean had proposed suspending the Marching 100 band just days before their son died. The lawsuit also alleges that school officials fell short in enforcing anti-hazing policies.

An attorney for Champion's family asked the judge to allow a jury to decide who was responsible for Champion's death.

"A jury needs to decide how to allocate responsibility for the death of Mr. Champion," said lawyer Kenneth Bell. "Please allow that to be heard."

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