In December 2022, the parents of an athlete representing the University of California-San Diego filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university and their coach for pushing their son to commit suicide. Let’s explore the details of the incident with Ehline Law and our wrongful death personal injury attorneys.
According to Brenda and Brian Lilly Sr, the University of California-San Diego rowing coach, Geoff Bond, verbally abused their son, Brian Lilly Jr, a 19-year-old boy, eventually leading to him taking his own life.
The parents in the complaint alleged that Bond mistreated their son after Lilly Jr challenged his decision to have a rower on the rowing team despite allegations of sexual misconduct.
According to the complaint, the coach verbally abused Lilly Jr, directly attacking his self-esteem and threatening to push Brian Lilly Jr off the team, leading to his suicide in January 2021.
Parker Kinney, a member of the rowing team and Brian Lilly Jr’s close friend, witnessed the verbal abuse firsthand and spoke to the Associate Press about it.
Parker Kinney told the press that many rowers in the team had concerns about having another rower with allegations of sexual misconduct. However, the coach did not view these concerns as serious and kept them under the rug.
According to Kinney, not many spoke about the coach’s decision as they were afraid they might lose the spot on the rowing team, but Brian Lilly Jr stepped up and challenged Bond’s decision. Lilly’s decision to speak to Bond about it enraged the coach resulting in retaliation.
The University’s defense team filed a motion to dismiss the complaint stating that Bond had no interactions with Brian Lilly Jr in the last nine months before his death.
They said that Bond only tried to reach out to Lilly Jr during the pandemic lockdown to know whether he would be returning to the school.
Following the complaint, several of Bond’s former collegiate rowers, including Gary Champagne, stepped up in support of the coach, praising his coaching style and how Bond was an excellent fit for young college kids.
In response to the University of California-San Diego (UC San Diego) statement, the grieving parent’s attorney, Nicholas Lewis, stated that Lilly Jr was involved in the rowing program by regularly attending the team video calls.
According to the parents, their son Brian Lilly Jr never had any mental illness history before joining UC San Diego. They’re keen on pursuing legal action to ensure such incidents never happen to anyone.
The plaintiff’s attorney, Lewis, mentioned that in July 2020, Lilly Jr received brief treatment for psychotic and schizophrenic symptoms for a few days before continuing with out-patient treatment for the rest of the year. Bond’s attorney argued that they were unaware of Brian Lilly Jr’s emotional state.
The victim’s father, Brian Lilly Sr, broke down in tears during an interview with Associated Press, stating that his son Brian Lilly Jr pushed himself too hard in February 2020, causing him to vomit multiple times. Yet, Bond continued to humiliate him, calling him a sissy.
According to Kinney, in March 2020, Bond yelled at him during one of the rowing sessions using derogatory, abusive language due to his friendship and support for Lilly Jr. The incident caused Kinney to lose respect for the game and speak to his dad about it.
Soon, Kinney and many others quit the team as Bond’s presence, and way of coaching was a mental stress they could not bear. UC San Diego declined further comment on the incident, citing pending litigation.
Grieving family members can hold the school district or the school liable for victimizing and causing their child emotional distress. The school is responsible for protecting its students and athletes and ensuring they are treated with respect.
No teacher or coach has the right to disrespect their students, mistreat them, and get away with it. In the case of Brian Lilly Jr, the coach mistreated him and caused him emotional distress, leading to vomiting, anxiety, and, eventually, his suicide.
The federal Civil Rights Act protects every student and ensures equal protection. No coach has the right to harass, bully, or abuse students because of their gender, disability, race, or national origin.
Brian’s main concern was that the rower on the team had sexual assault allegations against them which could taint the rowing team’s integrity. According to the complaint, Brian Lilly Jr suffered mental and emotional distress after he stood up to the coach for making such a decision.
It is up to the experience and knowledge of the lawyer to prove that the rowing coach, Geoff Bond, breached their duty to Brian and that their actions led to the child committing suicide.
To prove causation, the attorney must have medical reports from the psychiatrist for the in and out-patient treatments Brian had during his time at the University of California-San Diego and witnesses, among other pieces of evidence.
Suicide cases are rising across the United States, especially in universities and other educational institutions. In many suicide cases, emotional distress or bullying is the leading cause.
If you lost a loved one due to the negligence of a school or its staff, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be eligible for compensation.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.