Family of Lyon College student who died of alcohol poisoning files suit

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 9:45 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2022 at 11:14 PM CST
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BATESVILLE, Ark. (KAIT) - The family of a California teenager who died of alcohol poisoning while a student at Lyon College has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the college, according to court records.

The family of James Gilfedder III filed suit Thursday, Jan. 27 in Independence County Circuit Court against Lyon College, Huffmania Ventures, LLC, Jacob Huffman (a pitching coach at Lyon College), five John Doe Insurance Companies and 10 John Does in the case.

Gilfedder died in early 2021 after he was found dead in his dorm room.

Batesville Police Chief Alan Cockrill said an autopsy showed Gilfedder died of severe alcohol intoxication and that the death was ruled as accidental.

Police said Gilfedder had attended an off-campus party at a residence partially owned by a baseball coach and where several members of the baseball team lived.

The 27-page lawsuit says “this is an action for injuries, conscious pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of life and wrongful death.”

The attorney for the Gilfedder family, Denise Reid Hoggard of Little Rock and Tony L. Wilcox and Chris A. Averitt of Jonesboro, allege that Lyon College and Huffman knew the baseball team was engaged in hazing new players like Gilfedder and had a right to protect those college students.

“In Arkansas, it is the public policy to protect minors as a special class of citizens from the adverse consequences of alcohol consumption,” the lawsuit says. “Therefore, a person or entity can be held liable for providing alcohol to a minor for damages sustained by the intoxicated minor.”

The Gilfedder family is also asking Lyon, Huffman and Huffmania Ventures to respond to the lawsuit within 30 days.

Region 8 News reached out to Lyon College for comment about the lawsuit.

When reached for comment, Lyon College officials referred to its statement from January 2021 from then-President W. Joseph King about the situation.

“I am deeply saddened to share that this morning, one of our students passed away. The College is fully cooperating with the Batesville Police Department and for privacy reasons, we are unable to share any further information at this time,” King said.

The college said it provided counseling to students after the death and would work to help people impacted by the death.

“This is a difficult time with an enormous disruption and I promise you that we will come together as a community to appropriately mourn this loss,” the statement noted.

Region 8 News will have more details as they become available.

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