Parents of Florida teen awarded $15M in wrongful death lawsuit against sheriff’s office

TAMPA, Fla. — The parents of a Florida teen killed while trying to cross an interstate highway after being kicked out of the Florida State Fair were awarded $15 million in a wrongful death lawsuit on Thursday against the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

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The parents of Andrew Joseph III -- Andrew Joseph Jr. and Deanna Joseph -- were awarded $7.5 million apiece in the federal wrongful death lawsuit, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The 10-person jury decided that Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister should compensate the parents for the loss of their 14-year-old son, who was killed when he was struck by an SUV on Interstate 4 after being kicked out of the fair, according to the newspaper.

The jury assigned 90% of the negligence to the sheriff and 10% to Joseph III, WTVT reported.

“That child didn’t do nothing wrong,” Joseph Jr. said after the verdict. “Fifteen million put some respect on it.”

“This has been a long and arduous journey. We are so grateful to our team and community that has been built in the name of Andrew Joseph III,” Deanna Joseph said after the verdict. “We all walk with the spirit of my son, my 14-year-old son who died here in this place -- Tampa, Florida.”

The verdict ended more than six years of litigation. Joseph III was killed on the night of Feb. 7, 2014, and his parents claimed that the teen’s rights were violated when he was detained and ejected from the Florida State Fair on “School Day,” the Times reported.

The boy’s parents said their son was among 100 teens expelled from the fairgrounds after “a number of teen-involved fights and misconduct that broke out,” WFLA-TV reported.

According to Joseph III’s family, their son was handcuffed and detained. He was allegedly escorted by deputies to I-4 so he could meet his ride home, according to the television station.

The boy’s parents said they were never notified about their son’s ejection from the fair and said Joseph III was negligently left alone, WTVT reported. When Andrew III attempted to cross I-4 to return to the fairgrounds, he was struck and killed by an SUV, the Times reported.

“They owed Andrew a duty not to place him in a dangerous situation, and they did not do that,” the plaintiffs’ attorney, Chris Anulewicz, said in closing arguments.

Attorneys for the defendants, Chronister and retired Cpl. Mark Clark, argued that it was the teen’s own decisions that got him killed.

“We’re not devaluing the loss of the Joseph family,” Robert Fulton told the jury in his closing statement. “Nothing that has been presented over the last eight days has changed that fact that Cpl. Clark did not cause Andrew injury and the sheriff did not cause his death.”

“Losing a child is a heartbreaking and eternal grief that no parent should have to face, and we continue to keep the Joseph family in our prayers,” Chronister said in a statement following the verdict.

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