Mother Sues University Over Son's Overdose Death On Campus

By McCarton Ackerman 11/07/16

UMASS student Eric Sinacori had reportedly been a part of the campus police's controversial student-informant program. 

Mother Sues University Over Son's Overdose Death On Campus
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A grieving mother in New Jersey has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the university where her son tragically died from a drug overdose.

ABC News reported that Francesca Sinacori is suing the University of Massachusetts Amherst for $5 million over the death of 20-year-old Eric Sinacori. The lawsuit seeks $5 million from the school for breach of contract, and $1 million from the student who sold her son the heroin for wrongful death. Eric was found dead in his apartment in October 2013 from a reported heroin overdose. The body was discovered by Eric’s father during a visit on parents’ day weekend.

Eric reportedly worked as an informant for campus police in exchange for police agreeing to not press drug charges against him. Francesca’s lawsuit said the university never told her about his illegal drug activity, violating her legal right to be informed. She insisted that she would have immediately gotten help for Eric had she known, and expressed frustration that his reported heroin dealer was never charged with a crime by the Northwestern district attorney’s office in Northampton.

“I know who the dealer was, and they should too. They had the phone records. What are they even doing? It’s just so frustrating,” said Francesca to the Boston Globe in May 2015. “I feel like I’m being patronized.”

The university declined to comment on the case, citing its policy to not speak on pending litigation, but said the informant program has been discontinued.

Other parents have also taken action against the universities where their children passed away from overdoses. The University of Delaware faced a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit in September 2008 from Jeff and Claire Shanks. Their daughter, Laura, died in 2006 after being given a fatal combination of drugs by an ex-boyfriend.

The lawsuit also accused the university of breach of contract for boasting of a “nationally renowned” security system, which was just a "person-less keycard system." Jeff and Claire argued the campus police department was woefully understaffed and that its 62-person roster of security officers couldn’t possibly provide adequate safety for 19,000 students and 4,000 employees.

In June 2014, the parents of a St. John’s University student sued after he passed away after coming into contact with fentanyl during a campus externship required for his doctorate in pharmacology. James Yoo, 22, collapsed on-site at Rockwell Compounding Associates and died six days later.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.