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9.23.2003

College football player's family sues priest, church over alcohol-related death 

From the Associated Press:



PHILADELPHIA (AP) The parents of a University of Pittsburgh football player who died after he fell through a church ceiling have filed a lawsuit seeking at least $75 million from church officials and a priest accused of giving the teen alcohol in the hours before his death.

Billy Gaines, 19, died in June while attending a cookout hosted by the Rev. Henry Krawczyk at the St. Anne Catholic Church in Homestead in western Pennsylvania.

Authorities have charged Krawczyk with involuntary manslaughter in the player's death.

The suit alleges that Krawczyk served alcohol for several hours to a group of teens on the night of the accident, then did nothing as the group got rowdy, watched pornography on television and used the chapel's sound system to rap and sing.

Gaines crashed through a ceiling while trying to get to the roof through a crawl space that Krawczyk had shown him, the suit said.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in Philadelphia, also names St. Anne's, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish over which Krawczyk presided, and the Our Lady of Joy parish in Plum, where he worked in the 1980s.

It seeks damages for Gaines' pain and suffering, compensation for what he may have earned over his lifetime and $75 million in punitive damages.

Gaines' parents also alleged that Krawczyk had been accused several times of giving alcohol to minors in the past, and of making sexual advances toward a minor boy, but had not been disciplined or removed from a position where he would have contact with young people.



Wow.

This is utterly reprehensible behavior by the priest, and I'm certain that he is legally liable for Gaines's death...but don't parents teach their kids about alcohol anymore? Don't people take responsibility for what they put in their mouths?

From this article written at the time of the incident, we learn that Gaines's BAC was 0.16 percent. I don't know if this is at the time of the autopsy or at the time of the fall; for argument's sake let's say this is their estimate of his BAC at the time of the fall. 0.16 percent is the equivalent of six drinks. The lawsuit alleges that the group had been drinking for several hours before Gaines fell. The human body expunges roughly one drink per hour. Gaines fell at 2:30 am. Let's estimate the cookout began at around 9:30 pm. This means that Gaines had around eleven drinks that night. Outstanding.

Also, I hope that Gaines's parents aren't expecting too much compensation from what Gaines's pro football career would have yielded. The average NFL career is around two or three years, and NFL contracts aren't guaranteed (if you get cut in training camp, you don't get paid). So the expected value of Gaines's pro football earnings is probably chump change compared to the $75 million Gaines's parents are seeking in punitive damages.

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