Morgan State University has settled a lawsuit contending that it did not do enough to protect a student who was beaten by Alexander Kinyua just days before Kinyua committed a cannibalistic murder.
Joshua Ceasar sued the college after he was beaten by Kinyua with a barbed wire-wrapped bat and left legally blind. Kinyua, who killed a family friend and ate his heart while out on bail in the beating, pleaded guilty in both cases.
Ceasar will receive $185,000 under the Morgan settlement, which was reached last week. Because the college is a state entity, its liability is capped at $200,000.
"Josh is very pleased to see the case resolved," said his attorney, Steven D. Silverman. "Testifying publicly at Kinyua's plea hearing was emotionally difficult for him, and Josh is relieved that he does not have to relive this ordeal, for a third time, at a civil trial."
The settlement does not require Morgan State to admit wrongdoing. Officials at the historically black school in Northeast Baltimore did not respond to a request for comment.
A school instructor in the ROTC program had flagged Kinyua's erratic behavior, calling him a "Virginia Tech waiting to happen" in a campus police report from a separate incident. Ceasar's attorneys contended that Morgan should have done more to protect him after learning about Kinyua's violent tendencies and mental health problems.
Ceasar and Kinyua had been close friends at Morgan, playing video games and working out together. But as Kinyua descended into paranoid schizophrenia, he came to believe his friend was planning to inform on him to the police over an invented charge.
Kinyua was charged in the attack on Ceasar. While out on bail in that case in May 2012, he killed 37-year-old Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie with an ax before dismembering him.
Kinyua was found not criminally responsible in both cases and committed for psychological treatment.
Morgan State campus police received mental health training over the summer of 2013, school officials have said, and the university developed a new risk assessment to recognize problems in students and refer them for treatment.
Since the 1990s, judges have generally found that colleges can be held legally accountable for injuries suffered by students, according to a review by a Stetson University professor.
Morgan's lawyers sought to have the lawsuit thrown out, arguing that even if Ceasar could prove the facts of his allegations, the college did not breach its responsibilities.
In July 2013 a Baltimore judge rejected that argument and ruled that the case could move forward.
But Silverman said they decided to settle because of the liability cap and because hiring experts to take the case to trial would be expensive.
The cap does not apply if a college chooses to take out insurance, and Silverman said the state should consider requiring that colleges carry insurance in the future.
"It is a travesty that a venerable institution such as Morgan State University chooses not to carry liability insurance so that deserving and permanently maimed victims of its negligence, such as Joshua Ceasar, can be made whole," Silverman said.
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