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Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney > Blog > Wrongful Death > Mother Blames School’s “Party Culture” for Daughter’s Death

Mother Blames School’s “Party Culture” for Daughter’s Death


On the morning that she was supposed to graduate, Rebecca Lavin-Burgher suffered a fatal fall from a ladder inside Eckerd College’s Bininger Theater. Lavin-Burgher died on her birthday, five days after the fall. According to her friends, she was trying to make it to the roof to see the sunrise. The lawsuit claimed that was a graduation day tradition for Eckerd students.

Now, her grieving mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the college whose party culture she says is responsible for her death. She claims that the private college permitted students to drink and take drugs—even those who were under the legal age.

In 2018, The Princeton Review rated Eckerd fourth in the nation for “reefer madness”. In other words, the publication gave the school a nod for their drug abuse and the availability of drugs on their campus. The school was rated third overall for beer, while The Daily Beast rated Eckerd the 12th “druggiest” college in the nation.

This is a Premises Liability Lawsuit 

It’s very difficult to sue a culture, even a drug culture, and then blame it on some entity like a school. However, the plaintiffs are claiming that not only did administration and public safety know about Eckerd’s drug culture, they also knew that students regularly accessed the rooves. Had they prevented access to the rooves or at least provided safer access, Rebecca Lavin-Burgher might still be alive.

According to witnesses, Lavin-Burgher had drunk some quantity of alcohol, smoked marijuana, and had a bump of cocaine. Others told police that she had been at an on-campus party where drugs and alcohol were present and police found both champagne and beer in the theater where she fell.

Does Eckerd Permit On-Campus Parties?

The question as to what Eckerd permits, tolerates, or turns a blind eye to, is central to the mother’s lawsuit against the school. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that Eckerd approved on-campus parties during which they had reason to believe there would be widespread drug and alcohol abuse, even by underage students. The lawsuit contends that school officials simply ignored the party culture on campus and thereby facilitated a danger to their students.

The school has responded that they take the lawsuit very seriously but also indicated that there several factual errors in the claim. Those are undoubtedly related to claims that Eckerd facilitated drug and alcohol abuse on campus and is primarily responsible for the young woman’s death.  Lavin-Burgher was also over the legal age of 21 when she climbed up the ladder and fell 40 ft to her death.

The family also contends that the ladder was unsafe when Lavin-Burgher scaled it to access the roof.

Talk to a Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been injured in an accident that occurred on unreasonably dangerous premises, the Jacksonville personal injury attorneys at Gillette Law can file a lawsuit against the property’s owner or manager and recover damages related to your injuries, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Talk to us today for a free consultation.




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