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Athlete's teammate cited in wrongful death verdict

August 1, 2017
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia college lacrosse player who was never criminally charged in a teammate's death has been found mostly responsible by a jury in a wrongful death civil lawsuit that stemmed from a 2013 street fight.

A federal jury in Wheeling awarded $3 million Monday to the family of 21-year-old Kevin Figaniak of Perkasie, Pennsylvania.

Teammate Tyler Johnson of Columbus, Ohio, was never criminally charged in Figaniak's death. But the jury in the civil case found Johnson 75 percent liable and ordered him to pay $1.25 million in punitive damages.

Figaniak, a student at Wheeling Jesuit University, was knocked unconscious during a fight with two oil and gas pipeline workers after a night out drinking in August 2013. He died the next day at a Pittsburgh hospital.

Johnson refused to seek immediate medical treatment for Figaniak, attorneys said. Instead, they said he tried to drag Figaniak to his apartment but dropped him headfirst to the cement.

"The jury's verdict sent a clear message — 'when your friend needs medical attention, you need to stop thinking about yourself and instead get them help,'" Jeffrey P. Goodman, a Philadelphia attorney representing Figaniak's family, said in a statement Tuesday. "Had Tyler Johnson done that, Kevin would still be alive today."

The jury placed far less blame on the pipeline workers. Craig Peacock of Clewiston, Florida, was found 13 percent at fault and Jarrett Mathis Chandler of Winnfield, Louisiana, was found 6 percent at fault. Figaniak also was found partly to blame.

In 2014, Chandler was sentenced in state court to a year in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Peacock was found not guilty of a murder charge.

A deputy state medical examiner who performed Figaniak's autopsy testified during Peacock's trial that Figaniak died of multiple head injuries, including a skull fracture and brain hemorrhaging.

According to testimony, the fight began after Johnson made a remark about workers in the shale industry.

Figaniak was a senior business major who played on Wheeling Jesuit's varsity lacrosse team. He was also a member of the school's club hockey team.

 
 
 

 

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