USC will move to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of two international graduate students who were fatally shot off campus last month, according to a statement released on behalf of the university. The 15-page suit filed Wednesday states that the university makes false assertions about safety
Ming Qu and Ying Wu, 23-year old electrical engineering students from China, were fatally shot around 1 a.m. while sitting in Qu’s car on April 11. The incident occurred near the intersection of 27th Street and Raymond Avenue, about three blocks west of Vermont Avenue. No arrests have been made
The suit alleges that USC intentionally misrepresents the safety of its surrounding areas to international students and its effort to provide public safety services.
“USC is not one of the safest U.S. universities and colleges and does not provide twenty four hour law enforcement services in the surrounding neighborhoods and is in a high crime area,” the lawsuit states.
The university will move to dismiss the case, according to outside counsel Debra Wong Yang, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.
“While we have deep sympathy for the victims’ families, this lawsuit is baseless and we will move to have it dismissed,” she said in a statement.
Yang also said that USC was prepared to provide the families with financial assistance.
“We met with [the families] and offered financial assistance as a gesture of kindness and sympathy,” Yang said in a statement. “The attorney for the families subsequently instructed them to decline USC’s gesture and filed suit.”
Alan Burton Newman, the attorney for the victims’ parents, said he never instructed his clients not to agree to the assistance.
“This is absolutely not true,” Newman said. “I don’t instruct clients on what to do.”
Newman also said that the financial assistance was offered under the condition that the parents sign a document releasing the university from all liability.
“[The offer] was way too inadequate,” Newman said. “They were really offended by it.”
Newman said his clients are now looking for compensation that is “fair and equitable.”
Yang said that the incident was a random act that occurred off campus, for which USC is not legally responsible.
“That’s simply some crazed and deranged person acting out and USC has no liability for that nor should they,” Yang said.
Newman, however, said he believes his clients were intentionally misled because the graduate admissions website maintains that USC provides 24-hour law enforcement in surrounding neighborhoods.
“Some parts are [patrolled]. Some parts aren’t. I think that is misleading,” Newman said. “They are very smart people and I assume when they say something, they have thought about it.”
Newman also said that USC gains financially from graduate student attendance.
“USC solicits overseas Chinese students for graduate programs and it is a very lucrative source of their funding,” Newman said.
Both USC and the Los Angeles Police Department pledged following the shooting to increase security in the area surrounding the university with more video surveillance, escorts and patrols.