Parents of shooting victims file suit against USC

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.

23 replies
  1. Bob
    Bob says:

    I love SC for many reasons, but I do not like how unsafe the hood is. Students should be told that this is a a world class university, that is unsafe. And if students choose to come anyways, wonderful! But no more lipstick on the pig.

  2. Freddie Nerk
    Freddie Nerk says:

    I think the USC Trustees need to step in and demand real action is taken to provide a safe environment. The President and Deans spend too much time on fund raising for big projects than doing the basic work.

  3. Parent
    Parent says:

    We attended the USC admission orientation last year and asked about campus safety during the bus tour as well as the DPS presentation session. They did not answer the questions directly but indirectly, they implied that it would be okay. Mis-lead or not, I think USC did not provide a full picture to the prospective students. Something for them to think about.

    Also, I do not quite understand how the DPS with 200 people cannot patrol the immediate surrounding areas. What do these people do all day?

  4. OCSurferDudeSC
    OCSurferDudeSC says:

    I see that USC establlished a DPS booth of some sort on Raymond Ave AFTER the incident. Seems to me this implies it should have been there in the first place. Urban Oasiis my ass. Its the ‘hood and peeps from Southern California know this. But people from abroad do not. What the school should do is show videos of the Rodney King riots so the kids in Asia could ask why Koreatown was being torched and why a white man Reginald Denny was singled out for insance yard ape behavior.

  5. Freddie Nerk
    Freddie Nerk says:

    Perhaps if some of you attended the roadshow that USC hosts in China and other Asian cities, you would know where this law suit is coming from. USC underplays the safety and crime in LA. But its just not foreign students…the Trojan poll shows a majority of students feel unsafe at USC. That tells you something…that USC needs to tighten up security and access to campus, needs to extend patrols and adopt far reaching housing solutions. LAPD also needs to clean up the neighborhood.

    • George
      George says:

      F. Nerd:

      I don’t speak Chinese and have no plans to attend the “road show” in Asia so what is your point?

  6. Setsuna
    Setsuna says:

    I don’t blame the parents for being offended by USC’s backhanded condolence (offering “financial assistance as a gesture of kindness and sympathy”) in exchange for the parents’ agreement to not sue.

    Even though I believe the parents’ law suit is baseless, I find USC’s behavior toward the family–and the timing–to be reprehensible, insensitive, cynical, and insincere. At the very least, USC’s legal counsel could have waited several weeks before pushing a liability waiver into the families faces.

    If USC is (was) to honor the students and/or offer financial assistance, why not do it without strings attached? If the families still sued, then USC would still run a vigorous defense, but with its dignity and honor in tact.

  7. stroh
    stroh says:

    USC takes great care in keeping students, faculty and staff abreast of what’s going on around them. A website is dedicated to this information. Alerts and e-mails are sent out for every incident. Anyone who doesn’t know, isn’t paying attention. While the murder of anyone is tragic (regardless of where they are from), the blame is on the persons who commit such heinous acts, not on the school or the police who were not able to prevent it. High rise housing is not going to prevent this…the students weren’t walking from class to apartment…they were outside the campus at 1a.m…mostly likely partying. I pray for these families in that they find comfort during this time of loss…but a law suit of any money isn’t going to bring that comfort.

  8. rymlaw
    rymlaw says:

    The graduate students have been here at least 2 years. In those two years, have they been a victim of any crime since living off campus? If not, then were are the misrepresentations that the surrounding neighborhoods are unsafe? This isolated incident, albeit tragic, that happened in the early morning hour was not legally caused by USC’s alleged misrepresentation. This lawsuit will not get far. There is currently no case law that supports the plaintiffs’ causes of action.

  9. USC ALUMNI '11
    USC ALUMNI '11 says:

    I was a graduate student (’11) at USC and I lived a few blocks north of main campus (UPC). During my time there I did feel safe but I was always vigilent. The area is patrolled by local police and DPS (cars and on foot). There is a ride service that will pick you up on campus and drop you off at the front door (and vice versa) and there are shuttles that run constantly. There are also e-mail and text alerts that keep you informed of crime and other activities, etc.

    All that being said, random acts of violence happen – no matter where you are. What happened to these students was a tragedy. I think the parents are grieving and want someone to blame – this is natural. However, USC is not responsible.

  10. christopher cruz
    christopher cruz says:

    why punishing USC who has nothing to do with this??? Luckily LAPD had apprehended the killers, and now the lawyer of the parents can reverse the decision and instead sue the suspects (the killers) to pay for what they had done the crime

  11. Word
    Word says:

    Not only is USC likely at fault for the false advertising and or miss representation of Safety close to its campus but may also be negligent for not properly or sufficiently Warning potential incoming students of the Danger. USC is of course aware of this but it is significantly less expensive to compensate the relatively few serious victims who file suit verses the financial losses it would suffer if it actually “advertised” the danger properly and or warned potential incoming students. Building enough high rise student housing next to campus and securing that housing would solve the safety problem as long as they then properly warned students not to leave this “green” zone, but USC is already a little more expensive than even Stanford or Harvard so the rise in cost to cover university provided housing would reduce enrollment, so it’s a catch 22. About 40% of USC students are already receiving significant financial aid from USC itself, because USC wants to maintain a diverse student body. Here’s a question; if two students are bushwhacked and one of the students parents had been paying the full, approximately $50k per year cost for four years and the other student was not paying anything because of family financial hardship, I wonder if both families receive the same amount of financial compensation for their loss or does USC throw in the additional $200k to the family that has actually been paying for everyone else? You know what else is weird, USC actually already knows and has, a financial number they think is reasonable or fair to pay whenever a student is killed or seriously injured by the disadvantaged savages outside the red zone (i.e.. off campus but close) I’m just wondering how they come up with that number and what it is? 1 mil, 5 mil, 10 mil I don’t know? What is someone’s child worth? Does it depend on their major (i.e.. earning potential}? Do Chinese parents get more because of their one child governmental policy? Etc..

  12. Joe Trojan
    Joe Trojan says:

    This is true, the University can only do so much, and cannot completely guarantee the safety of its students. The problem is that the University advertises as such and that right there is putting their foot in their mouths.

    Josephine, there is no correlation between USC Student Housing and crime in the area. Robbers will continue to rob, thieves will continue stealing, etc. Will increased patrolling serve as a deterrent? Possibly. Take a look at other schools in urban settings (ie Yale University, New Haven).

    USC Housing is limited and like many universities, end up playing a lottery. At some point the student needs to take control of his or her life and determine what best fit their needs, in this case when it comes to housing and safety.

  13. Jennie
    Jennie says:

    USC is not responsible for actions of a thug. The individuals you guys should be upset at is politicians in Los Angeles and the incompetent chief of police for LAPD for letting the city go. There are some cities in China are pretty bad too. The parents are from a country that murders their own people.

    • Mindy
      Mindy says:

      USC may not be responsible for the actions of a random thug but they are for misrepresentation and negligence of the whole safety issue. You should read the actual lawsuit document. And what do your comments about China have ANYTHING to do this this?

      • Hipster Steve
        Hipster Steve says:

        Mindy and the rest of you fools:

        Please direct me to the advertising that USC distributes that there is no crime and Los Angeles is perfectly safe to potential students? Then direct me to the law or any other written requirement that USC is responsible for everything and everyone living off campus. Where exactly is the demarcation line where USC is responsible and then they aren’t if something bad happens to you off campus? Mindy, we live in the real world where bad stuff happens randomly and for no good reason. Those kids did not deserve to get killed. USC had nothing to do with the two thugs that killed them or the fact they were in that place at that time. This may the toughest for your small brain to understand, there doesn’t need to be payout for every bad thing that happens. USC doesn’t owe their families anything. USC already offered them some money which they did not accept. Now they can sue deep pockets USC in court. USC will settle with them not because they did anything wrong just because it makes business sense. The only guy who will smile when this is all over is their attorney. I would like to see all this energy and anger redirected against the NCAA and BCS who are the real criminals who robbed and raped SC while Ohio State and those thuggish Florida schools get off scot-free.

      • Jennie
        Jennie says:

        Hey Mindy,

        My comment about China has everything to do with this because this type of crime that happens here also happens in China. For the parents to think that USC should pay them large sum because they were foreign students is stupid. How is USC misrepresenting themselves? You have to be a fool not to know that USC is located in a bad neighborhood.

        • Mindy
          Mindy says:

          “For the parents to think that USC should pay them large sum because they were foreign students is stupid.”
          This is not what the lawsuit is about…

          “You have to be a fool not to know that USC is located in a bad neighborhood.”
          Keep in mind they were international students. And the very fact that USC claims it’s safe while “everyone who isn’t a fool” knows it’s not is not problematic to you?

  14. George
    George says:

    Suing USC makes absolutely no sense. There is nothing USC could have done to change the situation. You people are idiots and you should be ashamed to post such silly things. The real problem is the BCS and that is who should be sued!

  15. Josephine
    Josephine says:

    Finally the parents of a murdered USC student are going to take some action that might force USC to address its housing situation, which is an absolute scandal and directly contributes to shootings and stabbings of USC students. Is there any other major university in America that, despite being located in the middle of a ghetto (sometimes it seems more like a war zone), refuses to guarantee on-campus housing for anyone other than “fall admit” freshmen? Either USC’s administrators are guilty of very poor planning or else they view student safety as a low priority. Ming and Ying would still be with us today if USC had done what it should have done 10 or 15 years ago and built highrise housing for grad students (and perhaps upperclassmen/women) across the street from campus.

  16. Angela Walker
    Angela Walker says:

    The parents are right, and this makes the school look even worse. The school’s attorney said: “This lawsuit is baseless and we will move to have it dismissed,” whoever said this needs to be dismissed from USC.

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