Florida Senate - 2014 (NP) SB 62 By Senator Montford 3-00154-14 201462__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Robert Champion, Sr., and Pam 3 Champion by Florida Agricultural and Mechanical 4 University; providing an appropriation to compensate 5 Robert Champion, Sr., and Pam Champion, individually 6 and as personal representatives for the Estate of 7 Robert Champion, Jr., for the wrongful death of their 8 son, Robert Champion, Jr., which was due to the 9 negligence of Florida A & M University; providing a 10 limitation on the payment of fees and costs; providing 11 that the appropriation settles all present and future 12 claims related to the wrongful death of Robert 13 Champion, Jr.; providing an effective date. 14 15 WHEREAS, in 2011, Robert Champion, Jr., was a 26-year-old 16 student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and a 17 drum major in the university’s marching band, the “Marching 18 100”, and 19 WHEREAS, on November 19, 2011, as part of a university 20 sponsored trip, Robert Champion, Jr., traveled to Orlando on a 21 university-chartered bus with the “Marching 100” to perform as a 22 member of the band during the halftime show at the Florida 23 Classic, the annual college football game between Bethune 24 Cookman University and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical 25 University, and 26 WHEREAS, after performing at the Florida Classic, Robert 27 Champion, Jr., boarded the university-chartered bus designated 28 as “Bus C” and was brutally assaulted by fellow band members and 29 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University students in a 30 hazing ritual known as the “cross-over,” and 31 WHEREAS, the cross-over consisted of forcing Robert 32 Champion, Jr., to run from the front of Bus C to the back while 33 being punched, pummeled, kicked, struck, and pushed by fellow 34 band members and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University 35 students, and 36 WHEREAS, Robert Champion, Jr., sustained serious injuries 37 during the cross-over and died an hour later of hemorrhagic 38 shock due to soft tissue hemorrhage from blunt force trauma, and 39 WHEREAS, the administration of Florida Agricultural and 40 Mechanical University had been aware that an entrenched culture 41 of hazing existed at the university and specifically in the 42 “Marching 100,” and incidents of hazing had resulted in repeated 43 injuries to band members, lawsuits, and complaints from band 44 members and their families, and 45 WHEREAS, approximately 2 weeks before the Florida Classic, 46 the university’s band director, Dr. Julian White, notified the 47 administration of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University 48 of hazing activities that had occurred at the October 2011 49 homecoming football game within two sections of the band, but 50 the university failed to take any action to suspend the 51 activities of the band before the Florida Classic, and 52 WHEREAS, on December 28, 2012, prompted by the death of 53 Robert Champion, Jr., Derry Harper, the inspector general of the 54 State University System Board of Governors, released the results 55 of an investigation into hazing at Florida Agricultural and 56 Mechanical University which was based upon more than a decade of 57 hazing reports and university regulations, and 58 WHEREAS, the investigation found that there was poor 59 communication among departments critical to the development and 60 enforcement of antihazing policies, that there was a lack of 61 clear rules on how to handle hazing complaints, that hazing was 62 not tracked on the campus despite a history of the practice, 63 that hazing allegations investigated by campus police were not 64 shared with the office that handled student discipline, and that 65 band member eligibility was seldom, if ever, verified, and 66 WHEREAS, the inspector general concluded that Florida 67 Agricultural and Mechanical University failed to implement an 68 antihazing program that complied with the Board of Governors 69 regulations, university regulations, and applicable state law 70 due to a lack of effective institutional and internal controls 71 designed to prevent, detect, deter, and discipline students 72 involved in hazing, and 73 WHEREAS, as a direct result of Florida Agricultural and 74 Mechanical University’s failure to develop adequate hazing 75 policies or enforce policies already in place, Robert Champion, 76 Jr., was fatally hazed by fellow band members and Florida 77 Agricultural and Mechanical University students, and 78 WHEREAS, in May 2012, thirteen band members and Florida 79 Agricultural and Mechanical University students were criminally 80 charged with hazing that resulted in the death of Robert 81 Champion, Jr., and 82 WHEREAS, Robert Champion, Sr., and Pam Champion, parents of 83 Robert Champion, Jr., have suffered the loss of support, 84 services, and companionship of their son and endured mental pain 85 and suffering since the date of their son’s death and will 86 continue to suffer such losses in the future due to the 87 negligence of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, 88 and 89 WHEREAS, the Estate of Robert Champion, Jr. seeks to 90 recover damages for medical expenses, funeral expenses, and loss 91 of earnings, and 92 WHEREAS, on February 13, 2012, Robert Champion, Sr., and 93 Pam Champion, individually and as personal representatives for 94 the Estate of Robert Champion, Jr., filed an action against the 95 Board of Trustees of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical 96 University in the Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit, 97 Orange County, styled Robert Champion et al. v. A Ray Land 98 Productions Company et al., Case No. 2012-CA-002346-O, to 99 recover damages for the wrongful death of their son, Robert 100 Champion Jr., and 101 WHEREAS, the parties are negotiating but have been unable 102 to reach a settlement in the case, and 103 WHEREAS, Robert Champion, Sr., and Pam Champion, 104 individually as and personal representatives for the Estate of 105 Robert Champion, Jr., are entitled to damages for the wrongful 106 death of their son, Robert Champion, Jr., NOW, THEREFORE, 107 108 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 109 110 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 111 found and declared to be true. 112 Section 2. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University 113 is authorized and directed to appropriate from funds of the 114 university not otherwise appropriated and to draw a warrant in 115 the amount of _____________, payable to Robert Champion, Sr., 116 and Pam Champion, as compensation for the wrongful death of 117 their son, Robert Champion, Jr., due to the negligence of 118 Florida A & M University. 119 Section 3. The total amount paid for attorney fees, 120 lobbying fees, costs, and other similar expenses relating to 121 this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded under 122 this act. 123 Section 4. The compensation awarded under this act is 124 intended to provide the sole compensation for all present and 125 future claims arising out of the factual situation described in 126 this act which resulted in the wrongful death of Robert 127 Champion, Jr. 128 Section 5. This act shall take effect July 1, 2014.