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Miami University files response to wrongful death lawsuit


Miami University and its Board of Trustees, as well as its former provost and two current administrators in academic affairs, have been named in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Miami University and its Board of Trustees, as well as its former provost and two current administrators in academic affairs, have been named in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Miami University has filed a motion to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit brought forth by Adriene Knight, the widow of a Miami assistant provost, claiming “there is no causal relation.” 

On April 7, Adriene Knight filed the lawsuit against Miami University, the Board of Trustees and former provost Jason Osborne, for the death of her husband, William Knight, who died by suicide in 2021. The lawsuit also names Ruth Groom, associate vice president for Academic Personnel, and Lindsay Carpenter, associate vice president for Budget and Analytics.

On May 3, Ohio’s Attorney General David Yost filed the university’s response to the lawsuit. The response denies most of Adriene Knight’s complaint including all claims of wrongful death and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In response to the claim of vicarious liability and respondeat superior, the university admits that Osborne, Carpenter and Groom are employees of the university, but denies that they are defendants in the lawsuit. It also admits that Osborne was Bill Knight’s direct supervisor, but says that the administrators “acted within the scope of their employment.” The university is denying all other allegations of vicarious liability and respondeat superior.

The university has also filed a partial motion to dismiss the claim of civil conspiracy, claiming the “State cannot conspire with itself nor can it conspire with its agents who are acting in their official capacity.”

According to the motion, the Ohio Supreme Court defines civil conspiracy when two or more people maliciously work together to injure another person or property, resulting in damages that one person alone could not commit. Adriene Knight will have to prove that two or more people intentionally teamed up, caused injury to another person or property and committed an unlawful act as a result.

Because Miami University is named as a single entity and is a public state institution, the university is “unable to conspire with itself.” And because Osborne, Groom and Carpenter were all employed by the university at the time, the response says they were also unable to conspire with the university.

“Accordingly, as agents and employees of Miami, acting in their official capacity, Jason Osborne, Ruth Groom and Lindsay Carpenter were unable, as a matter of law, to conspire with Miami University and Plaintiff’s civil conspiracy claim must be dismissed for failure to state a claim,” the response says.

The university is also denying all allegations of negligent infliction of emotional distress and does not believe that it is liable to Adriene Knight. Adriene Knight is asking for in excess of $25,000 for each count, totaling at least $125,000 in damages. She is also asking for the cost of the lawsuit, attorney fees and any other relief as necessary. The university denies that she is entitled to any of the relief requested and defends its response by stating the complaint “fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The university also claims that Adriene Knight has failed to alleviate her damages.

In an email to The Miami Student, Alecia Lipton, associate director of media relations for the university, said Knight was a valued member of the community, but the university feels the lawsuit is unwarranted.

“We believe the lawsuit filed against the university regarding the death of Dr. Knight is unjustified,” Lipton wrote. “When Dr. Knight expressed his concerns that his mental health challenges were significantly affecting his work, his supervisor and colleagues responded with compassion and provided support and resources to help him succeed.”

Angela Wallace, Adriene Knight’s lawyer, did not respond to a request for comment.

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