TAMPA, Fla. - The family of 14-year-old Andrew Joseph III was awarded $15 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
More than eight years after the teen was killed trying to cross I-4 after getting kicked out of the Florida State Fair, HCSO was found 90% responsible by a jury, the Joseph family attorney confirmed.
Andrew's mom, Deanna Joseph, said "…the truth was told, Andrew’s truth," after the verdict came down Thursday.
"I always said that Andrew would not die in vain," Deanna said. "And the reason that we engaged in this fight so hard was that we didn't want any family to ever stand in the shoes that we're standing in today."
Back on February 7, 2014, there was a commotion between several teenagers during Student Day at the State Fair. That led to 99 teens, including Andrew, being detained by Hillsborough County deputies and kicked out of the fair.
The 14-year-old's parents said they were never notified their son was kicked out, adding that their son was negligently left alone. Andrew then tried to cross I-4, but he was hit and killed by a car.
Since the tragic night, his family has been fighting for the sheriff's office to be held accountable for how things were handled. But, HCSO has repeatedly invoked qualified immunity, a law that protects officers from civil suits and also keeps information from being released.
HCSO's latest appeal in 2021 was denied, which gave the Joseph family the break they were looking for.
After the wrongful death lawsuit was filed, the case headed to federal court Monday. The jury came back Thursday, awarding the family $15 million.
HCSO has said the agency has since taken steps to make Student Day safer for the kids in attendance. Students are no longer allowed to be at the fair without a parent after 6 p.m. Security has also been stepped up with deputies on high platforms throughout the fairgrounds along with cameras to help deputies keep an eye on everything going on.
There’s also a tent outside the entrance to make sure any teen asked to leave has a way to contact their parents.
On Thursday, Guy Rubin, the Joseph family's attorney stated:
"We are extremely pleased after so many years of seeking the truth, that finally, a jury acknowledged Andrew’s death was caused by the Sheriff Department’s negligence and not because Andrew did anything wrong. The family is grateful for a legal system that renders justice. And finally, Andrew Joseph’s good name is restored. A $15 million award speaks to who Andrew was and how devastating his loss was to his parents."
FOX 13 reached out to HCSO after the trial, and the department released the following statement from Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister:
"Losing a child is a heartbreaking and eternal grief that no parent should have to face, and we continue to keep the Joseph family in our prayers."