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Florida college wants civil case dismissed in student hazing death

November 28, 2012|By Michael Muskal

A Florida judge said he probably will rule by the end of next week on a motion to throw out the civil suit by the family of Robert Champion, the drum major who was killed during a hazing incident involving members of Florida A&M University’s famed Marching 100 band.

The hazing ritual, known as "crossing over," took place last November in a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after Florida A&M played its football rival. Champion, 26, was pummeled so hard he died of hemorrhagic shock caused by blunt-force trauma, according to the medical examiner’s report.

Champion’s family is suing the school, the owner of the bus and the driver. All have asked to have the family’s suit dismissed.

At the hearing Wednesday before Circuit Judge Walter Komanski, university attorney Rick Mitchell argued Champion chose to participate in the hazing ritual as a way of increasing his stature in the band. Champion knew the hazing was against university policy but chose to enter the bus anyway, he said, according to media reports from the courtroom.

The university has offered the family $300,000 to settle the wrongful death suit, but the family has rejected the offer as too small. The amount is the largest the school can offer without seeking approval from the state legislature.

Attorneys for Champion’s family insist the university is responsible for the death and that the charter bus company was aware of the hazing event, according to media reports.

Lawyers for the other defendants argued it was the university’s responsibility to supervise the band and that neither the bus company nor the driver were responsible for the hazing.

A dozen members of the Marching 100 band were charged with felonies or misdemeanors in connection with the incident. At least two have already accepted plea deals.

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