University of Utah settles suit over deadly crash

University of Utah settles suit over deadly crash

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The University of Utah has settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the families of seven Chinese scholars killed in a 2003 van rollover.

State officials agreed to pay nearly $500,000 to the plaintiffs, including three men injured in the crash.

The settlement cut short a two-week trial in Salt Lake City, and came after the widows' testimony left the jury in tears.

After it was announced in court Friday, the widows hugged the judge, the jurors and even the university's attorneys.

"It's a good resolution," said lawyer Robert Sykes, who represented them. "It would have been nice if (the state) settled before they had to get on an airplane and travel 13,000 miles."

The settlement concedes no negligence on the part of the university.

The April 2003 crash occurred near Williamsport, Pa., during the Chinese delegation's 28-day visit in the U.S., which was organized by the university's Institute of International Tourism.

It involved a stay in Utah to study education and a cross-country road trip from Utah to the East Coast.

The suit, which sought at least $3.5 million in damages, claimed the university acted negligently by contracting with an unlicensed travel business in New York, which in turn hired an unqualified driver for the van.

The van slid off a highway during a snowstorm and struck a tree.

Killed in the crash were Zhang Keming, Tang Shouyin, Liao Liusheng, Deng Guoyang, Ouyanag Zao, He Yunkun and Huang He, all vice presidents at universities in China's Hunan Province.

Injured were Xiao Yang Li, Yi Wei and Ke Qin Peng.

Coupled with a settlement from the van owner's insurer, Friday's settlement means the 10 plaintiffs split $800,000.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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