In our society, what comes after a tragedy just like the killing of hydrology professor Tom Meixner on the College of Arizona appears apparent and pure.
Meixner’s household sues the college for his or her negligence in defending Meixner from a pupil lengthy identified to be threatening violence. That is simply how issues work within the USA.
On this case, although, it won’t occur.
In her first interview for the reason that Oct. 5 killing, widow Kathleen Meixner mentioned she won’t sue. It is not that she and her household are pleased with the college and different native establishments. They suppose the college and others failed to protect Meixner, then the chair of the Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences Division, from a identified risk — former graduate student Murad Dervish.
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They like to not sue, as a result of that is what they suppose Tom would need, and since Arizona legislation works in opposition to folks of their place. What they really need is accountability for what went fallacious and for the folks affected to be handled proper.
“Tom wouldn’t need that,” Kathleen Meixner mentioned about the potential of suing. “That’s my intestine feeling. Tom wouldn’t need that. What’s irritating to me is — my concern is — I ask myself, ‘What’s it going to take for the underlying points to be mounted, to forestall this from ever taking place once more?'”
Meixner and her brothers, Colin and Kevin Cotter, laid out a lot of these underlying points throughout an interview at their mom’s Tucson residence. Amongst them:
- When the College of Arizona Police Division first despatched attainable fees in opposition to accused killer Dervish to the Pima County Legal professional’s Workplace in April, they solely included latest threats in opposition to an assistant dean of scholars, not the college members who had documented his behavior and handed on complaints for months.
- Tucson police obtained a report in March, from a person who mentioned promoting a gun to Dervish, saying that Dervish texted that he deliberate to make use of the gun to kill different folks and himself. It seems that data was not handed on to the UAPD or any of these threatened by Dervish.
- The UAPD despatched attainable circumstances in opposition to Dervish to the Pima County Legal professional’s Workplace in April and September, however these paperwork have been included in packets of minor circumstances quite than highlighted individually so prosecutors would pay particular consideration.
- The Pima County Legal professional’s Workplace took weeks to assessment the attainable fees and declined them with out apparently understanding the importance of the risk or contemplating different charging choices.
- Within the aftermath, the college rapidly minimize off the Meixner household’s medical health insurance and has been halting in its help to them and the opposite members of the division affected by the killing, together with those that witnessed his dying.
UA response ‘extremely disappointing’
The university has hired an outside firm, the PAX Group, to assessment all the episode and make suggestions. The UA additionally employed Steve Patterson, the lately retired head of the FBI’s Tucson workplace, to assist with the college’s Risk Evaluation and Administration Group.
In an announcement, the UA mentioned, “The lack of Dr. Tom Meixner has been heart-wrenching for our campus group, and our ideas stay together with his family members and people college students, workers and colleagues so deeply impacted by his passing.
“We eagerly await the assessment’s findings. On the similar time, we’re implementing further safety measures to additional improve the security of our complete group.”
Individually, the UA’s college senate can be doing its personal assessment of the incident and has voted unanimously to ask the university to proceed paying for the Meixner household’s medical health insurance.
It was this kind of factor, the cutoff of insurance coverage that occurred 11 days after Meixner was killed, that prompted Colin Cotter to begin consulting with attorneys, he mentioned.
“Once I began to succeed in out to civil attorneys, it was as soon as we realized all of the gross negligence and as soon as we realized that the college wasn’t simply going to come back ahead and handle Kathleen’s household or the opposite victims and witnesses, which was extremely disappointing.”
“We felt like we would have liked to know what our choices have been. Kathleen by no means wished to show this into some ugly factor.”
What Cotter heard from attorneys might be stunning to anybody who would not know Arizona’s employment legislation.
“To our data, there is no such thing as a actionable declare in opposition to the college or any of the entities below their umbrella — UAPD, board of regents, normal counsel,” Cotter mentioned. “My understanding is that they’re all protected below our employees comp legal guidelines, and that employees compensation is the unique treatment for when an worker is killed on the job, regardless of the presence of gross negligence.”
Legal responsibility exhausting to seek out
I checked with a neighborhood legal professional skilled in employment and personal-injury legislation, Stephen Portell, to ensure that what Kathleen Meixner and her siblings have been listening to was true. Portell confirmed it’s.
“To step exterior employees comp and sue the college, there must be some sort of willful misconduct,” Portell mentioned.
State law defines willful misconduct as “an act carried out knowingly and purposely with the direct object of injuring one other.” In different phrases, the college must have intentionally aided in Meixner’s homicide, not simply negligently failed to forestall it, to be held liable.
“It’s so loopy to me that the system is so damaged that the college has no legal responsibility, the Pima County Legal professional’s Workplace has no legal responsibility, and the college has no approach to give a greenback to Kathleen,” Colin Cotter mentioned. “Or, at this level, to do one thing distinctive and particular to handle the witnesses and different folks.”
Their brother Kevin puzzled if it is “concern of a lawsuit” that’s stopping the college from taking extra aggressive motion in supporting survivors.
Legally talking, Portell mentioned, if the UA needs to help the Meixner household or different survivors, that does not improve its legal responsibility.
Purpose: accountability and enhancements
Kathleen Meixner famous the household has been lucky to have assist from family and friends in Tucson, and from folks all around the world who contributed to a GoFundMe fundraiser arrange on their behalf. What stays undone, although, is the folks and establishments who might have carried out extra taking accountability for previous failures and fixing the issues.
“I believe partially you simply need one thing to occur immediately that provides you some comfort,” Kathleen Meixner mentioned. “They’re shifting on this, or they need to do proper by the Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences Division. You need all of it to occur immediately.
“The truth is, and I’m coming to phrases with this, that this course of is taking lots longer than I’d prefer it to. I’d prefer to really feel that the division is getting taken care of and that they’re doing every thing they will to forestall this from taking place once more to some other household or division on campus.”
“What’s irritating to me is that suing is typically what it takes. That actually makes me indignant, as a result of I’d like for there to be accountability and a recognition of, there have been so many issues alongside the way in which that might have been dealt with another way to forestall Tom’s dying.”
It might honor Tom Meixner, who proudly wore the UA’s colours, if accountability might happen, and affected folks have been nicely taken care of, and not using a lawsuit.
Tim Steller is an opinion columnist. A 25-year veteran of reporting and enhancing, he digs into points and tales that matter within the Tucson space, studies the outcomes and tells you his conclusions. Contact him at email@example.com or 520-807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter