Florida A&M University asks that Robert Champion family civil lawsuit be dismissed

Prosecutors filed criminal charges against 11 of 13 people allegedly involved in the hazing beating death of a drum major at Florida A&M University. Mark Strassmann reports.
CBS News
Robert Champion
AP Photo/Don Juan Moore

(CBS/AP) ORLANDO, Fla. - Attorneys for Florida A&M University asked a judge on Wednesday to dismiss a civil lawsuit brought by the family of Robert Champion, a drum major, who died last year after being hazed by fellow band members.

PICTURES: Florida A&M Hazing Case

Florida A&M University claims Champion was a willing participant in the hazing ritual that took place in November 2011 and therefore, they are not responsible for his death.

Authorities have said the 26-year-old student died from shock caused by severe bleeding after the ritual took place on a bus outside an Orlando hotel where the band was staying.

University attorney Richard Mitchell said Champion was not forced to board the bus and he believes this gives the university immunity from the wrongful death lawsuit.

"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."

Champion's parents filed a lawsuit contending university officials did not take action to stop hazing even though a school dean proposed suspending the famed "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.

Champion's parents, Robert and Pamela Champion of Decatur, Ga., rejected a $300,000 settlement offer from the university earlier this month.

Ten FAMU band members face felony hazing charges in the case, while two others face misdemeanor counts. All have pleaded not guilty.

The lawsuit also names the bus company that operated the bus on which the hazing took place, as well as its driver.

An attorney for the bus company told the judge that Champion's participation relieved them of liability.

Hazing that involves bodily harm is a third-degree felony in Florida.

Complete coverage of the Florida A&M hazing case on Crimesider