The family of a former Fairleigh Dickinson University student is taking action against the school in a lawsuit claiming the institution is liable for the 2014 crash that left the student with permanent brain damage.
Kenneth Franco was 20 when he left a late-night dorm party at the school in September 2014 and crashed into an unoccupied construction vehicle on Route 287 half an hour later, leaving him with permanent traumatic brain injuries, DailyRecord reports.
Franco lost his eyesight, speaking ability and part of his motor skills as a result of the crash, which his family says occurred because the university neglected to enforce its drinking policy.
Fifteen guests of the party and Florham resident assistants are also named in the suit for failing to prevent the Bloomingdale student from leaving the party while drunk, the outlet reports.
The school was previously absolved of wrongful action as per the Charitable Immunity Act in 2018, but upon an appeal from Franco’s family, the lawsuit was moved forward by allowance from the state appellate court.
The court argued that a jury could potentially find the institution partially responsible for hiring the RAs, who were supposed to have been working to prevent excessive drinking among students.
Four of the RAs had even attended the party where Franco initially became intoxicated — one of them was seen drawing on his face while the student was unconscious, the report says.
“Based on that evidence, a reasonable jury could determine that one or more of the RAs were grossly negligent or were willfully or wantonly indifferent when they failed to enforce the university's policies prohibiting underaged and excessive drinking,” the appellate ruling states.
Meanwhile, the RAs may also be held responsible on an individual scale, though other roommates in the suite did not have a legal obligation to protect Franco, the court states.
“None of the RAs who attended the party in [the suite] took any steps to determine if any underaged guest was drinking alcohol,” the court’s decision states. “They did not report Franco or anyone else for violation of the alcohol policy. Moreover, they did not notify senior staff or the Public Safety Office.”
The university stated that it did not comment on ongoing litigation.
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