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A judge removed Texas A&M University and school officials as defendants in federal court claims filed for victims of the 1999 bonfire collapse that killed 12 people and injured 27. U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent for the Southern District of Texas ruled Tuesday that governmental immunity applied to the school in federal court. The university and its employees are still named in several lawsuits filed in state court. All the lawsuits seek unspecified amounts for damages. There is no monetary limit on wrongful death claims in federal court, but Texas caps lawsuit damages against government agencies and their employees at $500,000. The judge said university officials were not “deliberately indifferent” to the dangers of the bonfire, but said they could have prevented the deaths and injuries. “Consequently, it can be argued that they may have acted negligently, possibly even grossly so,” Kent wrote. The 59-foot-high, wedding cake-style stack of more than 5,000 logs collapsed while it was being assembled on Nov. 18, 1999. The bonfire was a 90-year tradition, set afire on the eve of A&M’s football game against archrival University of Texas. An A&M commission blamed the collapse on flawed construction techniques and a lack of adequate supervision of students assembling the stack. The report did not single out anyone for blame. Plaintiffs’ attorneys said they will appeal Kent’s ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “We’re saddened by the court’s decision because the judge does say they were aware of the dangers,” Geno Borchardt, who represents a family whose son was among those killed in the collapse, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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