Saturday, September 19, 2015

Champions settle with FAMU for $300,000 and with hotel insurer for $800,000

Yesterday, numerous headlines incorrectly reported that the family of deceased FAMU drum major Robert Champion had reached a $1.1 million settlement with the university. But the settlement between the Champions and FAMU is actually $300,000. The money will be paid by the Florida Department of Financial Services.

FAMU offered the Champions $300,000 in 2012, but the family rejected it. The Florida sovereign immunity law sets $300,000 as the most that state universities may pay as part of a legal proceeding. Higher amounts must come from a claims bill passed by Florida Legislature.

The Champions have now decided to accept the $300,000 settlement even though it is $7.7 million less than the $8 million that a July article in the Orlando Sentinel reported that they asked FAMU to pay, earlier.  

Champion died after a hazing incident aboard a charter bus in the parking lot of the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando on November 19, 2011. The Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., which is the insurance company for the hotel, will pay an $800,000 settlement to the Champion family.

An investigation by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office found that Champion “willingly participated” in the hazing activity that cost him his life. Hazing victim Keon Hollis later testified under oath at the criminal trials that he and Champion asked to be hazed. Judge Renee A. Roche, who sentenced four former members of the FAMU Marching 100 band convicted in the 2011 hazing homicide, also said that the evidence from the trials convinced her that Champion volunteered to be hazed.

The Champion’s reached a settlement with Fabulous Coach Lines and driver of the bus that was the site of the hazing ritual in 2014. The family has not released the details of the settlement. But the files of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration state that Fabulous Coach Lines had a $5 million insurance limit from June 30, 2011 through January 27, 2012.

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