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Supreme Court won't hear Bonfire appeal

  Entertainment  -   POSTED: 2007/10/11 13:45

The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Tuesday to consider a lower court ruling that Texas A&M University officials cannot be held responsible for deaths and injuries in the 1999 Bonfire collapse. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April upheld a lower court's decision that found the concept of "state-created danger" was not established law in the circuit at the time of the accident.

In November 1999, the 59-foot-high wedding-cake-like stack of more than 5,000 logs collapsed as students were building it, killing 12 and injuring 27. Victims and relatives sued the university, claiming A&M officials created a dangerous event and were indifferent to safety.

"It's not a decision on the merits and while we're disappointed the court did not take the case, we do believe that the 5th Circuit was wrong," said Robert S. Peck, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Litigation, who has represented the victims and relatives. "It's simply a decision that they are not going to take up this case and they expressed no view on the merits."

Attorneys for the plaintiffs had argued that A&M officials deprived Bonfire victims of their 14th Amendment right to due process by acting with deliberate indifference to a state-created danger that killed or injured them.

The 5th Circuit agreed with a lower court ruling that such a constitutional right was not clearly established in the circuit at the time of the collapse, thereby giving the defendants immunity from what happened.

There is a state lawsuit pending in the 361st District Court in Brazos County, where A&M is located.

Portions of the suit have been settled, and other parts are pending, said Darrell Keith, an attorney who is representing several plaintiffs in the state suit.


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