On January 11, 2013, 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was discovered dead inside an upright mat at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. Students who had climbed up to the top of a cluster of the mats found him, and it was determined by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that he died accidentally due to positional asphyxia. A second autopsy conducted by a private pathologist concluded that blunt force trauma was the cause of death. The actual cause is still contested.
A year after his death, Johnson’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Lowndes County Board of Education, its superintendent and the high school principal, alleging that Johnson was “violently assaulted, severely injured, suffered great physical pain and mental anguish and subjected to insult and loss of life.”
Shortly after filing the first lawsuit, the family filed a $100 million civil lawsuit against 39 individuals, including classmates of Johnson’s, local, state and federal officials as well as the crime lab that conducted the first autopsy and several other defendants.
The second lawsuit was recently dismissed by a federal judge. According to the judge, the parents of Johnson were negligent in filing paperwork to the court and in filing for extensions. Additionally, the judge cited the plaintiffs’ attorney as being ignorant of a significant legal change regarding deadlines for paperwork.