Jury Returns $15M Wrongful Death Verdict To Family Of 14-Year Old Unlawfully Ejected From State Fair By Sheriff In Tampa Federal Trial
Tampa, FL— A 10-person federal jury in Florida returned a $15 million verdict to the parents of Andrew Joseph III, a 14-year-old student patron of the Florida State Fair, who died after being hit by an SUV while crossing a highway trying to find his ride home. This came after being illegally ejected from the Fair by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies on Student Day at the Fair in 2014.
The jury returned their verdict on September 22nd after 4 ½ hours of deliberations in a two-week trial that began September 12. The jury awarded $7,500,000 each to Andrew Joseph Jr. and Deanna Joseph, the parents of Andrew Joseph III.
The jury returned the verdict after Judge Mary Scriven instructed them that Florida law required deputies to call parents after children are taken into custody, and further, required deputies to release children only to parents or other responsible adults. The Sheriff contended throughout the trial that holding children at a makeshift detention facility at the Fair for 40 plus minutes, then transporting trespassed children by armed deputies in a locked, windowless police van to the edge of the Fair and then turning them out, on their own, was not a custodial detention.
Andrew Joseph III was an honor student, and a budding star athlete in football and track, who attended a Catholic academy and was accepted to Tampa Catholic High School for the school year after he was killed. Andrew died the night before he was to be confirmed at his church. His family and his community were devasted. Immediately after the tragedy, The Sheriff’s Office engaged in a PR campaign accusing Andrew of being part of gang violence at the Fair before he was ejected. Those allegations were proven false during the trial. In fact, Andrew was taken by deputies only because he tried to hand a fallen FSU hat to a friend.
Lead counsel, Guy Rubin, noted after the verdict, “We are extremely pleased after so many years seeking the truth, finally a jury acknowledged Andrew’s death was caused by the Sheriff Department’s negligence and not because Andrew did anything wrong. The family is grateful for a legal system that eventually can render justice. Finally, Andrew Joseph’s good name is restored. A $15 million award speaks to who Andrew was and how devastating his loss was to his parents.”
The Josephs were represented by Guy Rubin and Todd Norbraten, of Rubin & Rubin, Stuart, FL and Chris Anulewicz and Patrick Silloway of Balch & Bingham, Atlanta, GA.