Civil jury finds teammate most responsible in WJU lacrosse player’s death

WHEELING, W.Va. — The parents of a former Wheeling Jesuit University standout lacrosse player have been awarded more than $3 million in connection with their son’s death that happened four years ago in Wheeling.

A Wheeling federal court civil jury found Kevin Figaniak’s friend and teammate Tyler Johnson most responsible for his Labor Day Weekend 2013 death.

WJU senior Kevin Figaniak died in a Pittsburgh hospital on Labor Day Weekend 2013.

Figaniak died approximately 24 hours after he had been punched and kicked by two pipeline workers after a night at a Wheeling bar on Aug. 30, 2013. Jarrett Chandler, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and Craig Peacock was eventually found not guilty. But the family filed a civil suit against Chandler, Peacock and Johnson. Johnson had not been charged criminally in Figaniak’s death.

Figaniak family attorney Jeffrey Goodman said Johnson was the focus of the five-day civil trial that ended Monday because his conduct was “most unforgivable.”

“It’s not the punch from Jarrett Chandler that killed Kevin and it’s not Kevin falling back after the punch or even the kick from Mr. Peacock. It was Mr. Johnson trying to drag Kevin’s beaten body back to campus and dropping him on the sidewalk–that’s what ultimately caused Kevin’s life,” Goodman told MetroNews Tuesday.

Testimony showed Figaniak’s head hit the concrete helping lead to his death. Witnesses testified that neighbors tried to get Johnson to call 911 but he refused to do so, Goodman said.

“If Tyler Johnson had simply called for medical attention or let one of the neighbors to call for medical attention like the neighbors suggested Kevin would still be alive today,” Goodman said. “Johnson tried to bribe him not to call an ambulance. He was worried about himself getting in trouble.”

Chandler and Peacock took responsibility for their actions during the civil trial but Johnson did not when he testified, Goodman said.

“He said he didn’t do anything, he wouldn’t change anything he did and he didn’t have any responsibility—I think the jury let him know he was wrong about that,” Goodman said.

The jury found Johnson 75 percent responsible, Peacock 13 percent responsible and Chandler 6 percent. Under state law, because Johnson was found more than 30 percent responsible he, or his insurance carrier, will have to pay the entire amount of the compensatory damages, which total about $1.75 million. Johnson is responsible for the entire $1.25 million punitive damages the jury awarded.

Goodman said the jury’s decision sends a message to college students and everyone else.

“When one of your friends needs medical attention you can’t think about yourself you have to think about them. You have to get them the medical attention they need,” Goodman said.

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