Settlement reached in lawsuit over death of Lafayette freshman McCrae Williams

A+Massachusetts+native%2C+Williams+fulfilled+his+dream+to+play+Division+One+Lacrosse+as+a+Goalie+when+he+was+recruited+to+play+for+Lafayette+College%2C+according+to+the+William+McCrae+Foundation+website.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+goleopards.com%29

A Massachusetts native, Williams fulfilled his dream to play Division One Lacrosse as a Goalie when he was recruited to play for Lafayette College, according to the William McCrae Foundation website. (Photo courtesy of goleopards.com)

Nathan Kornfeind, News Editor

A wrongful death civil lawsuit that accused several Lafayette students of failing to help McCrae Williams, a freshman who died from an alcohol-related fall in 2017, was settled out of court on Oct. 27. The terms of the settlement are under seal.

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil suit for monetary damages, according to the legal website Nolo. No one was charged with a crime in connection with Williams’ death. Lafayette College was not named as a defendant in this case.  

“I can confirm that a global confidential settlement was reached resolving all claims in this matter,” Michael Budner, the attorney representing Williams’ parents, wrote in an email. “The settlement was approved by the Court on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, under seal. I have no further comment on behalf of the family.” 

Williams’ parents, Christopher and Dianne Williams brought the wrongful death lawsuit against nine Lafayette students on Dec. 7, 2018. The lawsuit accused two of the defendants of serving Williams and other students alcohol at a lacrosse team party. It says the other students were negligent for picking up Williams and placing him in bed rather than calling for help immediately, according to Lehigh Valley Live. 

Williams, a 19-year-old lacrosse recruit, was drinking alcohol at a lacrosse team day party on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Upon returning to his dorm in the evening, he fell and injured his head, but there were no obvious signs of injury. 

The students placed Williams in bed and “backpacked” him by propping him up with a backpack so that he would not choke on his own vomit. While they periodically checked in on him and offered him food throughout Saturday evening, it was not until the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 10 that the students called 911. Williams was pronounced dead at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township on September 11, 2017, according to a timeline produced by former Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli. The cause of death was a skull fracture and bleeding on the brain, according to Lehigh Valley Live 

On Nov. 18, 2019, Northampton County Judge Michael Koury determined that there was enough evidence to put the case before a jury and let it decide whether the defendants were liable. However, Morganelli said in 2019 that he gave the students immunity from prosecution so that law enforcement could question them about what happened to Williams, according to Lehigh Valley Live. The case has since been settled.  

Philadelphia attorney Mitch Berger, a lawyer for one of the defendants, wrote in an email that he “cannot offer any comment on” the settlement of the case. The other defendants’ attorneys were not reached for comment. 

Following Williams’ passing, the McCrae Williams foundation was founded. Among its goals are to “do far more to publicize and educate all students so that they know that they can call for help for a friend in medical need and not get into trouble for doing so,” according to the website.