Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Purdue Settles With Steffey Family For $600K

Although I heard a few legal experts express the opinion Purdue could not be held liable for Wade Steffey's tragic death by electrocution last January in a university dorm electrical room, Purdue has agreed to a settlement with the family, which will include a $500,000 payment to the family for the loss of their son and a $100,000 payment to establish a scholarship fund in his honor. I guess Purdue was anxious to put this matter behind it.


Anonymous said...

I'm betting if they had their choice between the money or their son, they would have chosen their son.

Purdue screwed up by not having that door locked. Someone screwed up so someone has to pay.

It is very sad to see the family on TV, they are so sad, they have a hole in their heart no money can fill.

Anonymous said...

There is no proof the door was not locked and that Steffy did not force it open (pick the lock, someone had a master key and made copies, etc. etc.. Purdue did not screw up. This was not a day care or elementry school. This was a college campus with so called "adults." A door that is not marked as an entry way should never _need_ a lock. In Purdue's case, it sounded like they at least went as far as locking the door knob. While we will never now if the door was locked, we do know that every single college, daycare, downtown business, etc. will start putting pad locks on these doors.

My honest opinion is that the only reason the pay out was so high was because Purdue really screwed up the search. Searching a dark room from an entry way is not searching. The campus police, campus facilities, and others really dropped the ball. A hard core search of that building should have been done the moment they knew he was last seen there. That was not done, even if 99.5% of the rest of the building was throughly checked.

I still wonder just how far we are going to go until personal responsibility is 100%. It is on life support as it stands now. If this kid was drunk, it is still his fault. If he was not drunk, then he was totally aware where he was and what he was doing.

Maybe colleges should start requiring at least one parent or guardian to live with the freshman students since they obviously are not grown up enough to care for themselves.

In the end, Purdue got $1,700,000,000 in donations over seven years. Who knows how much they got from the state. They have 38,000 students. All in all, they can raise tuition $13 for each student and that takes care of this pay off.

Question for you lawyers: In cases like this, does Purdue also pay extra in legal fees, or does the firm take their cut from the $500K. Usually these cases are closed and payouts not aired.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree. The fault was NOT in the door originally, but the faulty search. THAT was unforgivable. But in the end, Wade was responsible for his actions. How sad that a young life was ended so soon....

Anonymous said...

This guy was an adult. He was very drunk.

The Steffey family needs to realize that he is responsible for his own choices, no matter how tragic the results.

It is reprehensible that Purdue would pay out that much money for the actions of a drunk student. If I enroll at Purdue and get drunk and slip out the window of a dorm, will they give me a fat cash reward, too?

Anonymous said...

Wow. What incredible posts.

I have a child attending Purdue. I had a concern about her safety two years ago. It was confined to a specific set of incidents, which I felt were poorly handled (from her explanation). I realized there could be another side to the story, so I contacted the university.

During two separate meetings and several phone calls, it was clear to me that the university operates their police department with a cavalier attitude. Poor leadership, and very nasty attitudes about anyone who asks legitimate questions.

In the end, I wrote to the university president and trustees. I got one trustee phone call response.

This is an institutional problem. I hope this tragic death illuminated their weaknesses and they can remedy things.

As for Wade Staffey's drunkeness...we may never know, because the body was overlooked for so long. That's part of the point.

Personal responsibility works, and becoming more responsible is part of the growing-up experience. A "drunk" man can no more "pick a lock" than fly to the moon. Think about that for a second.

And try some compassion. The university effed up this entire mess, start to finish. They likely left a very dangerous room unlocked.

One of the "responsible" and "adult" lessons I learned a long time ago, is that some institutions only learn and correct their errors when they have to write a big check.

$13 a student? What the hell kind of misplaced priority is that statement?

Sounds like you're a university employee...perhaps involved in this case or on the edge of it.

Anonymous said...

all it comes down to is that the student should be held accountable for his actions. that room was off limits and its trespassing. no matter what happened during the search if all falls back on the actions of the student...locked or unlocked he had no right to enter....

Anonymous said...

There is no legal duty to perform a search...that is discretionary. You cannot punish the university because they didn't find this drunk student in a place he was prohibited from entering.

The payout is an outrage! It sets a bad precedent: "Come to Purdue to get drunk and Purdue will pay a cash reward for the results of your behavior...after all you are not responsible."

In fact, since this student created the tragedy, his estate should be paying for all efforts to search for him.

Anonymous said...

The last two posters clearly do not understand Indiana law.

Negligence runs rampant over this case. It's everywhere.

Clearly, the student was likely drunk. Or otherise not in control of his faculties.

All the MORE reason to have dangerous rooms on campus clearly locked and marked. And such dangerous rooms should be on a regular, daily lock-check patrol.

Hell, commercial real estate managers/security do more careful lock-checks on office buildings.

Personal responsiblity was lacking here. That's a given. But did it need to result in a grizzly electrocution?

The clear answer there is: no.

Lighten up on the Steffys. There but for the Grace of God...

There isn't a judge or jury in the world who would've awarded less than the university voluntarily paid out.

Let's hope the death wasn't meaningless, and the university has altered its procedures.

Anonymous said...

Negligence runs rampant over this case. It's everywhere.

There is negligence by _law_ only. The simple fact is that more and more folks are upset that personal responsibility continues to be pushed farther back on the bus because we have such a fear of painting someone good and nice as resonsible for their actions. The $13 per student shows how in the end, everyone else pays. Purdue pays _nothing_. Since the students can now trespass at will, even when intoxicated, and not be responsible for their actions, universities will have to pad lock doors, erect fences where students are known to jaywalk, etc. etc.. All these costs will just be passed onto the students. Basically, most of us pay in some way, to keep us all safer since we require folks to have less personal responsibility.

Anonymous said...

8:27 Perhaps you need to come back to reality from Liberal Land.

Wade must be held accountable for his own actions. He was trespassing. He entered a prohibited location. He had no right to be there.

I'm sorry, but if someone forgets to lock a door, then you don't have a right to trespass into their property. Using your (outrageous) logic, if I lock my door and pull it closed, but it fails to latch and someone then pushes my door open and goes through my home stealing my possessions, then I am negligent and responsible for the criminal conduct of a trespasser. -NOT!!!

Wade was wrong, that's all there is to it. He was in a place he should not have been and, thanks to his voluntary intoxication, he also performed a reckless act that resulted in a sad tragedy. It is NOT Purdue's fault.

Liberals think there's always someone else to blame. 8:27, you probably think that if you fall, it is someone else's fault. Perhaps government should have paid for a light where you fell? -Perhaps a property owner should have picked up a twig that fell from a tree into the field you were walking in? No, sir, your concept of "blame someone else" is just what is wrong with society.

Go to a penal facility and ask the inmates if they are responsible for their actions...you probably believe a rape victim was negligent because it happened to be an attractive female, or a victim of car theft is at fault for their car being stolen because the owner didn't have "The Club" on the steering wheel. You are wrong.

Wade was responsible. The settlement is outrageous!

Anonymous said...

12:06, I'm far from "Liberal Land." And you can go back to your desk at the Purdue provost's office now.

I, too, do not like the lack of responsibilitly these days. This is not a case on which to visit those beliefs. Period.

We will never know if Wade Steffey was intoxicated. Why? Because a bungled search left his body too long for meaningful toxicology reports, for that purpose anyway.

And if you'll check the Indiana Code, yes, all statutory police departments are obligated to conduct such searches if they are deemed to be reasonable (as in not frivolous). That standard is typically "commmon sense."

I'm guessing you're right, that Wade was drunk. And public institutions' liability responsibilities do wane in such circumstances, but they do not disappear. In short, even drunks have a right to expect that such rooms are properly secured. Now, if he broke into the room...that's a different story. And you can ebt he didn't, or there wasn't a shred of evidence to suggest that, like a mangled doorknob or soemthing, or Purdue wouldn't have flinched on settlement.

Failure to secure a door to a dangerous room is reprehensible. They bear blame. By law and in the minds of any erasonable trial court, they'd be held responsible.

The real trick ehre was, to determine the dollar amount to affix to that responsibility. I'm not sure what a court would've done. Are you?

Comparing this event to a locked home door left ajar, is meaningless. And not pertinent.

Anonymous said...

1:55 I don't know where you are coming from. Did you just get off the phone with an ambulance chaser at 1-800-HURT ME?

First, the tox indicated intoxication. Next, Purdue's duty does not extend to pulling doorknobs (of which there are thousands).

Wade was in a place he was prohibited from entering. He was trespassing. He engaged in voluntary reckless conduct. Thus, he is responsible for his conduct, even though it had a very sad outcome.

Don't try to blame anyone but the person responsible. No reasonable person would have entered that room. No reasonable person would have electrocuted themselves. It was the actions of a drunk student that were the cause.

You, sir, are why most citizens cannot stand ambulance chasers...they are morally bankrupt.

Anonymous said...

his death was as menaingless as that of any bumbling drunk. he will go down in history as an idiot.

that purue paid money to his cretinous greedy parents is a testament to postmoderinsm.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's obvious that Purdue is also the land of the liberals.

They have filled these poor kids heads full of mush and liberal dribble.

No wonder this country is falling apart.

Anonymous said...

1:55 I have to agree with the other poster...the toxicology showed drukenness. Second, I'm no lawyer, but I cannot imagine legislating a "search" requirement on police as you allege. It has to be discretionary. There are not enough police in this state to begin a search like that done in this case for every runaway child that is reported.

9:36 nobody can be blamed for not finding him in a place everyone was prohibited from entering. If you have a problem with the search and want to call it "unforgivable", then I'll place the blame on YOU! That's right 9:36, nobody had a duty to search. If you call it "unforgiveable", you can only blame yourself for not searching yourself and finding him. After all, nobody said "9:36 cannot check for Wade." You were more than welcome to search for him on your own.

Finally, I also disagree with your assertion that the analogy by the other poster is "not pertinent." I think that is exactly a fair comparison.

If you have a place that everyone knows they may not enter (locked or not) and someone enters it...they are wrong. I said I'm not a lawyer, but it seems that is trespassing, which is a crime. If not criminally, I think someone could make a civil case that the person was trespassing and not invited and responsible for damages they cause (fees for searching, etc).

Finally, I was saddened with the results of the incident. Purdue has no responsibility for what happened. They did nothing negligent. Wade is responsible for his actions.

Anonymous said...

I have an idea: since Purdue is setting up a scholarship for Wade Steffey, wouldn't it be appropriate to call it the "Wade Steffey Scholarship for Drunkenness" and the criteria to win would best be: student who can consume the most alcohol and still remain standing.

Doug said...

I'm a little surprised at the payout. It might have been more about publicity than likely liability.

Purdue is a governmental entity and, as such, a contributory as opposed to comparative negligence standard would apply. Most negligence these days are decided on a comparative negligence standard. If you hurt me through your negligence and you were 60% responsible for the accident while I was 40% responsible, then you have to pay me 60% of my total damages.

Governmental entities, however, are judged under the old contributory negligence standard. Basically, if my negligence (theoretically even as little as 1%) contributed to the accident, then my recovery is barred.

So, even if Purdue did something wrong, from what I've read, it seems like Mr. Steffey was at least 1% negligent just being in the room in the first place.

But, it's hard telling what all the elements were going into the decision. Legal fees were probably going to be $100k on something like this before all was said and done. Combine that with some potential liability, the bad publicity of the case, a flush bank account, a bunch of the stuff we probably don't know about, and genuine regret at the loss of life, and maybe the settlement makes sense.

Anonymous said...

8:27 I want you to know that if I were judge or on a jury, the Steffey family would not receive anything in the form of a judgement. Wade was totally to blame.