A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wake Forest University stemming from the 2018 shooting death of a Winston-Salem State University football player on WFU’s campus.
Court records show that Najee Ali Baker was killed near a parking lot outside The Barn, an on-campus event center owned and operated by Wake Forest, after being involved in an altercation moments earlier inside the center.
Baker’s mother sued Wake Forest, claiming that the school failed to provide proper security during the event, and that the number of prior physical altercations at the center put the university on notice of the possibility of violence. A few years before the shooting, the school slashed law enforcement and security presence at The Barn events to save money, the suit alleged.
But in her Aug. 5 order dismissing the suit with prejudice, U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles noted a lack of similar crimes on campus, writing that past altercations at The Barn had generally been limited to shoving and fistfights, and that no evidence shows that any of them required medical attention.
“The evidence does not give rise to a disputed question of material fact as to foreseeability of an assault involving a dangerous weapon at the Barn, much less of a homicide involving a firearm,” Eagles wrote.
Bob King, Shana Fulton, Tanisha Palvia, Katie Wong, Kasi Robinson, and Cordon Smart of Brooks Pierce in Raleigh and Greensboro, and William Davis of Bell, Davis & Pitt in Winston-Salem represented Wake Forest.
“[Eagles] granted the school’s Motion for Summary Judgment, ruling that the plaintiff did not come forward with any evidence that Wake Forest University officials could have predicted the shooting would happen or that the University could have taken steps to prevent the shooting,” Brooks Pierce said in a news release. Its attorneys declined to comment further on the ruling.
Davis also declined comment, noting that the decision has been appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Jay Ferguson of Thomas, Ferguson & Beskind in Durham and Jonathon Fazzola of The Fierberg National Law Group in Traverse City, Michigan represented Baker’s mother. Ferguson did not respond to a request for comment.
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SUMMARY JUDGMENT REPORT — WRONGFUL DEATH
Amount: $0 (defense verdict)
Injuries alleged: Death
Case name: Estate of Najee Ali Baker v. Wake Forest University et al.
Court: U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina
Case No.: 1:2019-cv-00477
Judge: Catherine Eagles
Date of verdict: Aug. 5
Attorneys for plaintiff: Jay Ferguson of Thomas, Ferguson & Beskind in Durham and Jonathon Fazzola of The Fierberg National Law Group in Traverse City, Michigan
Attorneys for defendant: Bob King, Shana Fulton, Tanisha Palvia, Katie Wong, Kasi Robinson, and Cordon Smart of Brooks Pierce in Raleigh and Greensboro, and William Davis of Bell, Davis & Pitt in Winston-Salem