NY Court of Appeals Upholds Lawsuit Against Cornell Over 2010 Student Gorge Death
The appellate division of the State Supreme Court has upheld a negligence lawsuit against Cornell University. The parents of a student who fell into a gorge near the college in 2010 and died are looking to hold the university responsible.
Sophomore Khalil King was killed when he fell into the gorge behind Phi Gamma Delta fraternity in August 2010.
King’s parents, sued the university in 2012 alleging that Cornell, which owns the property at 118 McGraw Place and leases it to the fraternity, failed to provide adequate lighting, warning signs, or barriers preventing access to the gorge, which has a more than 200-foot drop.
Cornell had moved for dismissal of the case, arguing that it was shielded from liability by a law that grants special immunity to property owners when individuals use their land for specified recreational activities, including hiking. The Supreme Court denied the motion and Cornell appealed.
The appellate division agreed with the Supreme Court decision in August 2013 that King’s use of the gorge trail constituted “hiking” under the statute.
Cornell had also maintained that since the dangers of the gorge were obvious, it had no duty to warn people of any hazards and that all reasonable measures to maintain the property in a safe condition had been taken.
King and a classmate were both intoxicated and were walking to a fraternity house on campus, at some point King ran down the trial near the gorge. Ithaca Police determined that King crossed over a split rail fence that bordered the trail and went over the edge of a cliff, he fell more than 200 feet.