This story is not about the 5 million dollar settlement paid in a wrongful death lawsuit. This story is about the truth that was brought to light, surrounding the balcony fall and tragic death of 19 year old Jack Lipp.
Former Libertyville High School basketball star Jack Lipp, a freshman at the University of Missouri in 2014, died at University Hospital after being critically injured, in a fall from a balcony during a party, on December 14th 2014. Jack, the only son of John and Stephanie Lipp, later died on Christmas Day.
Jack Lipp will always be remembered by his friends and family for his kind heart, gentle nature and for his love of family, friends, his sense of humor and his love of life. He led his life as a shining example of how to be a good person everyday. Today, the story that surrounds Jack’s tragic death, and what was learned through the wrongful death lawsuit his parents brought against the property manager and developer, teaches all of us that the precious life of our students, should be protected no matter what the cost.
At the center of this story is a rental property for students. On April 18, 2013, Ginger C, a local student housing rental-company owned by University of Missouri Professor Nakhle Asmar, contracted to purchase 507 S. Fourth Street in Columbia, Missouri, on contingency. Asmar had also contracted to purchase or already owned all of the 16 adjacent properties near West Campus. Ginger C had an additional contingent contract with American Campus Communities, the self-proclaimed nation’s largest student housing developer, to re-sell and re-develop the assemblage into a 718 bed student housing complex, now known as the U Centre on Turner. City approval of the new student housing development fulfilled the contingencies.
On February 1, 2014, ACC submitted an application to the City of Columbia for the new project. On March 19th, 2014, the City Council voted to table ACC’s project. Numerous other student housing development projects were already under construction in Columbia. Numerous other student housing projects were in the application process. The City of Columbia was becoming concerned about the City’s aging infrastructure being able to handle the student housing development boom, that was brought on in part, by the University of Missouri joining the SEC conference.
On May 7, 2014, the City Council voted again to table American Campus Communities redevelopment project. Local media was regularly covering increasing opposition to new student housing developments. On August 5th, 2014, the City of Columbia voted for the 3rd time to table defendant ACC’s redevelopment request. Frustrated and concerned about the future viability of the project, American Campus Communities directed Ginger C and Nakhle Asmar to lease all 17 properties to students for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year. Although the City finally approved ACC’s new project on August 19, 2014, most of the properties had already been rented, including the 507 S. Fourth St. property.
On October 22, 2014, Ginger C closed on 507 S. Fourth Street with a loan that it secured from ACC. Under the loan’s terms, Ginger C still owned and managed the property, however there was conflicting evidence as to whether the tenant lease was actually assigned to American Campus Communities. Ginger C was the only one that inspected the property after closing. Witnesses testified that they showed Mr. Asmar the outdoor balcony railing that was in desperate need of repair. Nakhle Asmar denied that he was shown the railing.
On December 12, 2014, the tenants of 507 S. Fourth Street held a “stop day” party. Around 200 students attended. Jack Lipp, a 19 year old freshman, arrived at the party around 11:30 p.m. Several witnesses saw Jack at the party. Shortly after 2:00 a.m., Jack Lipp was found on the ground outside of the residence directly underneath the balcony. Lipp was unconscious and no one saw what happened. The main balcony railing was found broken on the ground, 35 feet from Lipp.
Lipp was rushed to University Hospital and was diagnosed with a severe traumatic brain injury. There was no medical evidence of intoxication. Lipp also had injuries that were consistent with being in a fight. On December 25, 2014, Jack Lipp died from his injuries. The Columbia Police Department investigated the incident and declined to make any arrests.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs who were represented by AW Smith of The AW Smith Law Firm in Columbia Missouri, alleged that the defendants intentionally failed to make repairs to the properties, because they would soon be demolished, to make way for American Campus Communities new student housing project.
American Campus Communities and Ginger C LLC agreed to pay 5 million dollars in the wrongful death of 19 year old MU student Jack Lipp.
For anyone who has a child who is, or will, attend college and live in student housing, Jack Lipp’s life and tragic death should inspire all of us to do whatever is absolutely neccessary, to protect the lives of college students, especially by ensuring where they live, always meets or exceeds building code requirements.
A true testament to the huge impact Jack Lipp made on everyone who knew him, is the Jack Lipp Foundation. The Jack Lipp Foundation was founded in the Spring of 2015 by a group of Jack’s closest friends. The purpose of the foundation is to honor and celebrate Jack’s life, as well as to continue his legacy though numerous events along with The Playing With Heart Scholarship. The scholarship is a $2,000 scholarship given once a year to a member or members of the Libertyville High School Basketball or Golf team. Basketball and Golf were Jack’s favorite sports and he had an everlasting impact on both programs at Libertyville. To donate to The Jack Lipp Foundation click here.
The life Jack lived was extraordinary and the impact that he had on others was second to none.
The AW Smith Law Firm is a serious injury and wrongful death law firm. The sole focus of the law firm is getting their clients the justice they deserve, after they have suffered an injury or loss of a loved one. Their past results, speak volumes about their talent and passion in helping each of their clients. The law firm has been recognized nationally for the success they have had on behalf of their clients.
Prayers will continue to go out to the family and many friends of Jack Lipp. We know he will always walk with you, forever.
Case Details Below;
Case No.: 2:15-cv-04257-NKL
Parties: John & Stephanie Lipp v. American Campus Communities, et. al.
Court: United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Central Division
Judge: The Honorable Nanette K. Laughrey, U.S. District Judge
Date of Settlement Approval: April 7th, 2017
Plaintiff’s Counsel: AW Smith of The AW Smith Law Firm, Columbia, Missouri 573-777-3333
Defense Counsel for American Campus Communities: Jacqueline Cook & Suzanne Bruss of Franke, Schultz & Mullen, Kansas City, Missouri 816-421-7100
Defense Counsel for Ginger C LLC and Nakhle Asmar: Jeffrey Blaylock & Clayton Thompson of Ford, Parshall & Baker, Columbia, Missouri 573-449-2613
Type of Case: Fall from Balcony – Wrongful Death
Plaintiffs’ Experts: David Chase, Architect, West Palm Beach, Florida; Robert Griswold, Real Estate Management, San Diego, California; Tony Childress, Civil Engineering, Dallas, Texas; Mariusz Ziejewski, Biomechanical Engineering, Fargo, North Dakota; Carl Stacey, M.D., Pathology, Columbia, Missouri.
Settlement for the Plaintiffs, John and Stephanie Lipp, in the amount of $ 5,000,000.00