Skip navigation
Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Judge Hears Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Grad Student Shooting

A judge approved USC lawyers' motion to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit.

On Tuesday, a judge dismissed most of the claims made in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of two graduate students who were killed in the shooting on West Adams last semester.

From left, Ying Wu and Ming Qu (Photo courtesy USC)
From left, Ying Wu and Ming Qu (Photo courtesy USC)

While LA Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson did not believe the plaintiff's theories were all supported by case law, he gave Alan Burton Newman, their attorney, 20 days to amend their complaint.

The father and mother of Ming Qu, Wanzhi Qu and Xiaohong Fei, and the parents of Ying Wu, Xiyong Wu and Meinan Yin, filed the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on May 16.

The 23-year-old electrical engineering students were shot on April 11 at about 1 a.m. in Qu's 2003 BMW that was parked off-campus on Raymond Avenue.

Debra Wong Yang, one of USC's attorneys, said she doubted the case could overcome its legal problems and asked Johnson to dismiss the claims. Newman has amended the complaint before and she doesn't think another revision will be enough.

“I reviewed everything, including case law in this area from the California appellate court and the California supreme court and it’s pretty clear to me that there is no duty here. There is breach of duty and there is no causation," said Yang.

The 20-year-olds charged with the murder of the graduate students from China, Bryan Barnes and Javier Bolden, are waiting for their preliminary hearing. If convicted, the accused could be eligible for the death penality.

USC lawyers said in their court papers that the university is not responsible for the deaths because "the student's deaths at the hand of third-party criminals were tragic, but USC is not the appropriate target of plaintiffs' grief." The court papers continue stating, "This case and others like it expose a victim's damage suit for what it is... an artificial scheme designed not to fairly assess culpability, but to reach into the deepest pocket."

“While a horrible crime occurred here, there’s nothing about it that makes USC responsible for it. It was random, it was an area that was off campus, it’s not something foreseeable. And if you look at the law that interprets this area they don’t extend the liability to that," explained Yang.

The court papers also state that lawyers of the plaintiffs have not mentioned evidence that show the schools is responsible for criminal behaviors committed by those with no connection to USC.

According to the suit filed by the parents, USC "actively solicits international students particularly from China for its graduate studies program for which it receives a substantial sum of money from tuition to help fund the university."

“I think the court today really spent a good amount of time studying this issue… I think the plaintiffs have an uphill battle here… The courts always give plaintiffs another bite of the apple just because that’s the way our system of civil law works," expressed Yang.

The suit also says the school's website states that USC "is ranked among the safest of U.S. universities and colleges, with one of the most comprehensive proactive campus and community safety programs in the nation." The university does not patrol the area where the students were shot and is in a high-crime area.

“The plaintiff also makes claims that certain representations that USC makes about its campus were intentionally misleading or misrepresentations. There were two maps that they cited to and our position, and the correct one the judge agreed with, is that the maps are not misrepresenting any facts. The maps are what they are. They show the campus, the patrolled area and the response area. And that’s all within the area USC has defined what it is they can do," said Yang.

USC court papers states, "The students attended USC for well over a year before they were killed off campus by two criminlas who had no connection to USC. And plaintiffs make no attempt to explain how the alleged misrepresentations... could have caused the students' deaths."

“At the end of the day it’s being resolved in a criminal court where people are being charged with a crime because they were on a crime spree. And that unfortunately in a civil case there’s just no basis for that. There’s no reason that USC should be held liable for a random act of violence that took place off campus," concluded Yang.

Leave a comment

We've Moved!

By Sam Bergum
01/21/16 | 11:09 a.m. PST

Visit us at!

USC Basketball Knocks Off Rival UCLA 89- 75

By Scott Cook
01/14/16 | 12:05 a.m. PST

USC defeats UCLA with stellar play from their Freshmen. 

Holiday Bowl - USC vs Wisconsin Post-Game Press Conference

Su'a Cravens: "It's the players that need to step up"

Darreus Rogers: "It comes down to the players"

Trojans Fall to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl 23-21

We detected that you might be on a mobile device such as an iPad or iPhone. Sorry, at this time the video box is only visible on desktop computers.