Campus News

Family of UW-Madison student who died in Rome suing university where he planned to take classes

The parents of former UW-Madison student Beau Solomon, who is pictured second from the right, are suing John Cabot University for negligence after their son was found dead in the Tiber River last year.

Image By: Courtesy of Regan Pauls

The parents of the 19-year-old UW-Madison student who died in Rome last year filed a federal civil lawsuit Monday against the university where their son planned to take classes, claiming the university was negligent and failed to provide adequate safety warnings to its new students.

Beau Solomon, who had just completed his freshman year at UW-Madison, was found in the Tiber River after being robbed and assaulted shortly after arriving in Rome, Italy in June 2016 to take classes at John Cabot University.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Madison, contends that John Cabot failed to inform both Solomon and UW-Madison that four young adults had died within 350 yards of the university from 2014-15. One of the deceased was a University of Iowa student attending John Cabot who, like Solomon, was fatally robbed during his first night in Rome and eventually found in the Tiber.

According to the lawsuit, after the Iowa student’s death, JCU employee Kathryne Fedele stated that she questioned whether JCU needed to stop recruiting American students because they are targets. However, Franco Pavoncello, the university’s president, responded that Americans need to learn to take care of themselves.

Solomon’s parents are suing JCU for wrongful death, conscious pain and suffering and punitive damages, claiming the university acted with “reckless indifference,” knowing the surrounding area was dangerous and neglecting to inform the students.

After arriving in Rome, Solomon and two other UW-Madison students were escorted to their residence on the John Cabot University Campus. During the ride, JCU staff directed the students in the vehicle to head toward the Tiber River if they were ever lost, according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that upon arriving on campus, no safety information was discussed, no orientation was conducted, no curfew was imposed and no requirement that the students remain together or in groups was enforced at the school’s welcome reception.

Later that night, Solomon went to the same establishment that the Iowa student attended before he was fatally attacked. In the early morning hours of July 1, 2016, Solomon was walking back along the Tiber River when he was attacked, pushed into the river and left to drown. Solomon was found dead nearly three miles from the university on July 4, 2016, according to the complaint.

Since Solomon’s death, John Cabot University says they have implemented a curfew and organized nightly events for students studying abroad. Students now attend a safety session on their first day in Rome that advises them on how to stay out of danger. A guard with a loaded gun now stands at the entrance of the JCU campus, according to the lawsuit.

The defendants have not yet filed a response to the complaint. 

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