University Blamed for Death of American Student in Rome

MADISON, Wis. (CN) – The family of an American student who was found dead in a river days after arriving in Rome to study abroad filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the college that hosted him.

Beau Solomon, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, arrived in Rome, Italy for the John Cabot University study abroad program on June 30, 2016.

His body, identified by DNA, was found floating down the Tiber River just days later, according to a lawsuit filed by his parents against JCU in Madison federal court.

“In the early morning hours of July 1, 2016, Beau was walking back along the Tiber River, where he was directed to go by JCU staff if he got lost, when he was attacked, pushed into the river, and left to drown,” the complaint states.

His parents say he “suffered a robbery, assault, two head wounds, was forcefully shoved into the water near the JCU campus, and ultimately drowned.”

Solomon’s mother and father are suing JCU and its insurer, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, for punitive damages on a wrongful death claim, alleging the college in Rome did not warn students about the dangers surrounding its campus.

They allege JCU failed to provide a proper safety procedure orientation for students and warnings about the area, and did not disclose information about five similar “suspicious circumstance” foreign exchange student deaths within the last 10 years.

All of the students who suspiciously died were in their late teens to mid-20s, according to the complaint.

Two were American students studying at JCU and four of the deaths happened between 2014 and 2015, Solomon’s parents claim. They say four of the five deaths happened within 350 yards of JCU’s campus.

“JCU did not provide Beau with any warnings about the area surrounding JCU, the dangerous nature of the area near the Tiber River, or the previous deaths before allowing Beau to explore the area surrounding the campus,” the lawsuit states.

Students were allegedly told by JCU staff to head toward the Tiber River if they ever got lost, according to the complaint.

“In January 2015, over a year prior to Beau’s departure, a student from the University of Iowa studying at JCU was fatally injured near the Tiber River on his first night in Rome, Italy,” the complaint alleges. “The Iowa student was attacked and robbed before he was found near the Tiber River. He was wearing an orientation bracelet provided to him by JCU when he was found.”

Solomon’s parents claim their son went to the same establishment that the Iowa student visited before he was fatally attacked.

The family’s lawsuit suggests there are several commonalities between the attacks on students.

“Beau was informed by JCU staff members that he must wear his yellow orientation bracelet at all times and could not remove it until after orientation was over,” it states. “This is the same kind of bracelet that the Iowa student was wearing when he was attacked and fatally injured.”

According to the complaint, a former JCU employee spoke to the university president days after the Iowa student’s attack “about doing more to prepare the American students,” but the president allegedly responded that “Americans need to learn to take care of themselves.”

The University of Iowa suspended its relationship with JCU after Solomon’s death and the Italian college made changes to address safety concerns, his parents say.

“After Beau’s death, JCU implemented a curfew and organized nightly events for the students studying abroad in their first two days at JCU,” the lawsuit states. “All students attending JCU now attend a safety session on their first day in Rome that advises students on how to stay out of danger.”

A JCU employee reportedly said the intent of the program is to alert students that the “first few days are especially dangerous.”

Solomon’s parents want a judge to declare that JCU and Chubb are liable for their son’s death for not warning him about the dangerous area surrounding campus.

They are represented by Robert Gingras of Gingras Cates & Wachs in Madison.

John Cabot University Inc. is a Delaware limited liability company. The university bills itself as “an American University in Rome.”

JCU and Chubb did not immediately respond Tuesday to an email request for comment.

According to a Wisconsin State Journal report, a homeless man was charged in Solomon’s death last year but has since been released and there are currently no other suspects.

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