TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A verdict was reached Thursday in the wrongful death lawsuit filed after the 2014 death of a 14-year-old who was hit by a car on I-4 after being kicked out of the Florida State Fair.
A jury found the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office 90% responsible for the death of Andrew Joseph III, and found Joseph 10% responsible. The verdict awards $15 million to Joseph’s family.
“We have restored honor to his name, to my father’s name,” Andrew Joseph Jr. said. “Andrew Joseph III has been acquitted of doing anything wrong.
“They blamed him for everything. They took no responsibility, but the jurors said no more. No more,” Deanna Joseph said.
The family of 14-year-old Joseph said their son was at “School Day” at the fairground when he and nearly 100 teenagers were kicked out “following a number of teen-involved fights and misconduct that broke out.”
Family members said things took a turn for the worse when the teen was handcuffed and detained. His parents alleged their son wasn’t involved in the fights but was escorted by deputies to the interstate so he could meet his ride home soon after.
Joseph was hit and killed by a car while trying to cross I-4.
“We fought long and hard for this, and I am so happy that this has finally been able to concur,” Joseph’s sister Deja said. “We’ve been able to, persevere through all the battles.”
A spokesperson with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office told News Channel 8 earlier this year that the boy’s death was not a result of their interaction.
“Andrew Joseph was never driven from the fair by a law enforcement officer. Hours after he and several teenagers were instructed to leave the Florida State Fair following a number of teen-involved fights and misconduct that broke out inside the fairgrounds, Joseph chose to attempt to cross a busy highway, and it was during that time that he was unfortunately struck by a passing vehicle.”
Detectives who investigated the crash said the cause was not due to driver impairment, but rather, “Joseph running across a highway in the dark, not wearing reflective clothing, in an area that was not designated as a crosswalk.”
“In addition, Joseph was one of several teenagers expelled from the Florida State Fair, however, he was never actually arrested,” the statement added.
Since the boy’s death, authorities said a number of safety measures have been taken at the fairgrounds to ensure any minor in attendance is safe.
“Losing a child is a heartbreaking and eternal grief that no parent should have to face, and we continue to keep the Joseph family in our prayers,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement following the verdict.
Deanna Joseph says she’s now focused on restoring her family.
“Always believe in the essence of your family and the essence of what your child and what you brought into this world,” Joseph said.
The Josephs say they will keep fighting so no other family has to experience the same tragedy. They also say this is the first step in ending qualified immunity.
“This is the beginning of tearing that wall down, this is historic, Andrew Joseph Jr. said. “This is going to save countless lives and that was our mission.”