Chinese film student’s family sue University of Southern California after he was killed shooting assignment

·3 min read
File: Students walk on campus at the University of South Carolina in Columbia (Getty Images)
File: Students walk on campus at the University of South Carolina in Columbia (Getty Images)

The parents of a film student who was killed along with two peers while working on an assignment in April have sued the University of Southern California for wrongful-death.

Peng Wang, a student at Chapman University, was filming for a project sanctioned by USC when the off-road vehicle in which he was travelling was involved in an accident in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, according to the suit filed filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court Monday.

His parents contend that USC knew that the teams of students would be using off-road vehicles to shoot in the desert and bears responsibility for the safety of its students on a project which was to be graded in the class..

“Safety should trump everything on student film projects made in fulfilment of USC class requirements,” it said in the lawsuit, according to a South China Post report.

The cost of damages sought by Wang’s family is not specified.

The lawsuit said that the renowned university bears a “responsibility to return the people who make its films back to their families intact”.

“USC is liable for its negligent failure to exercise control over, and to ensure safety on, the Finale student film project. That negligence resulted in [Wang’s] death and the ensuing damages for which plaintiffs bring suit to recover,” the student’s family said in the lawsuit over the project which listed Wang as director of photography.

Officials at the university have denied responsibility for the death of its students. It had earlier said that the cinematographer and the other students had gone rogue in making the short film Finale and were unaware of the approvals needed to use off-road vehicles, alongwith shooting their project in a far-off part of the desert that is three hours away.

The location of the shoot was more than 370km (230 miles) from the USC campus, officials said.

In a statement shared on Tuesday, the school said: “USC was not responsible for Mr Wang’s tragic death. We will be sharing the facts about our robust safety procedures and safety record in court,” the SCMP report added.

The 29-year-old’s father Hualun Wang said that he was left stunned after learning of his son’s death one April morning, reportedThe Los Angeles Times.

“In life, there is no greater pain than this type of bereavement. After our son is gone, we have to endure all the hurt, all the societal pressure and the pressure to take care of ourselves when we get old,” Mr Wang told the LA daily in June.

Wang succumbed to his injuries on 15 April and the cause of his death was listed as blunt neck trauma due to the off-road accident.

His parents have argued in the lawsuit that the varsity’s film school had cleared a “student certification” for the film that was submitted on 5 April and slotted it a production number.

The film crew met with an accident after the driver of the vehicle lost control of the vehicle as the team was driving across the sand dunes. The vehicle rolled down one of the dunes and Wang, despite wearing a seat belt, was thrown out partially in the accident, a police report of the incident states, according to the report.

Wang’s family has said that an “experienced driver, or one with proper training, familiar with the dunes would not have made this obvious error” in the court filing.