Parents of Purdue Student Fatally Shocked Reach Settlement With University

Purdue University and the parents of a student who was fatally shocked in a high-voltage campus utility room have agreed to a legal settlement that will provide $500,000 to the family and a scholarship endowment, the school said Tuesday.

Wade Steffey, a 19-year-old freshman, died Jan. 13 in the utility room, but his body wasn't discovered until two months later.

Under the terms of the settlement, Steffey's parents give up any further claim to payment from Purdue, said Joseph L. Bennett, Purdue vice president for university relations. A $100,000 endowment will create the Wade Steffey Memorial Scholarship that will be awarded to students from Indiana to attend Purdue.

Steffey's parents, Dale Steffey and Dawn Adams of Bloomington, hired a personal-injury law firm to represent them in their case against the university, although a lawsuit was not filed.

"This agreement brings to a close a tragic chapter in the history of the Purdue family," Bennett said in a news release. "The entire university community continues to mourn for the loss of this young man."

The Steffeys have scheduled an afternoon news conference in Indianapolis to talk about the settlement with the West Lafayette university.

A report by a consulting group hired by the university concluded that their son inserted a finger into an opening in a transformer in the unlocked utility room, touching a conductor that delivered the fatal shock. Steffey entered the room after climbing over or through a railing and step into a concrete area about 4 feet below ground level, the report said.

Purdue officials have said the room had been examined, but not thoroughly, as officials and volunteers searched for the missing student days after he disappeared. Officials have not been able to explain why the exterior door to the room was unlocked.

In July, attorneys for the family and for Purdue agreed to extend the deadline for the family to file a notice of tort claim. Such a notice is required before a lawsuit can be filed against a public institution.