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Successful Virginia Wrongful Death Lawsuit Cited Mishandled School Expulsion

As a Virginia injury attorney and father, I was saddened to read about the death of a teen that was allegedly caused by school officials to properly suppervise him after telling he had been expelled.

According article in Virgini Lawyers Weekly, the 17-year-old student was told he had to leave a military academy because he had gotten into a fight with a shoolmate. A school employee who had been on staff for just three weeks was assigned to accompany the teen as he packed his belongings. He was left alone, however, and within moments of being in his room, the boy managed to fall to his death from his dormitory window. The employee stated he “left the room for just a second” as he went to get other students to help carry the boy’s belongings. Perhaps adult placed too much trust in the victim, who had served as an officer and platoon leader at the academy.

After being informed about his son’s expulsion, the father of the boy, a retired navy SEAL, made arrangements for family friends to pick him up because he and his wife were out of town. The cadet’s father explicitly told the commandant to not tell the boy about the arrangement until the family friends arrived. The commandant assured the father that the school held “tight procedures” when dealing with expulsions.  Ignoring the father’s wishes, the commandant informed the 17-year-old cadet an hour before the family friends arrived and sent him to pack his belongings under the supervision of a school employee.

A wrongful death action was filed against the school and several of its employees, claiming that the school’s employee was negligent and acted willfully in leaving the expelled student unsupervised. In its defense, the military academy claimed that the teen committed suicide, which its employees could not have forseen or prevented even had the person been in the student's room at the time. The school also asserted that the boy had assumed the risk of dying when making the decision to go out of the window.

Instead of going to trial, the parties agreed to settle for $700,000.

We congratulate the lawyer, Mark Lindensmith of Staunton, Virginia (VA), for achieving this result for the grieving family. I hope this lawsuit will encourage the school to prevent such tragic events from happening in the future. The school needed to take more care to protect a child in their custody. 


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