Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of Lawsuits Over Texas A&M Bonfire Accident

April 25, 2007

A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the families of those killed and injured at Texas A&M University at College Station in 1999, when a huge stack of logs being assembled for a bonfire collapsed. In an opinion issued on Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously affirmed a lower court’s ruling that university officials had “qualified immunity” from the lawsuit, which alleged that constitutional protections of the unskilled students working to build the bonfire were violated. Twelve students died and 27 others were injured when the 59-foot stack of logs collapsed. The court ruled that a legal theory in injury cases, known as the “state-created danger theory,” had not been firmly established in the Fifth Circuit at the time of the tragedy, and therefore could not be employed by plaintiffs in the lawsuit. —Martin Van Der Werf