UC sued over former student’s brain damage from drug overdose at co-op

John Gibson
John Gibson

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The mother of a former UC Berkeley student whose son sustained brain damage as the result of a drug overdose sued the Berkeley Student Cooperative and the UC Board of Regents Tuesday.

Madelyn Bennett claims that the cooperative failed to exercise reasonable and diligent care and supervision at Cloyne Court, allegedly resulting in ongoing illegal activities including the sale of illegal drugs. Plaintiff attorney Charles Kelly, II said the regents failed to provide adequate supervision or education for former student John Gibson, now 23, and other cooperative residents about responsible drug use and that certain policies discouraged students from contacting emergency responders or 911.

According to Bennett’s lawsuit, filed in the Alameda County Superior Court, Gibson sustained an anoxic brain injury after he and his roommate at the time ingested illegal drugs around St. Patrick’s Day in 2010. The lawsuit states that roommates attempted to perform CPR after finding Gibson the next morning with bluish lips, seemingly not breathing. He remained in the house for an additional two hours before emergency responders were called, according to the lawsuit.

Kelly said medical bills for Gibson are over $500,000 per year and that although a formal demand has not been made, any settlement would include future medical treatment, which now includes round-the-clock nurses. This future medical treatment could cost millions of dollars, he added.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the campus is saddened about the injuries Gibson sustained and that although the campus cannot be held legally liable for the consequences of illegal drug use, it will continue to “work hard with the co-op to educate members about drug abuse.”

Although the lawsuit has been filed, Kelly said it would be at least two weeks before it is served. He added that he has not spoken with anyone from the university or the cooperative about the case.

“Illegal activity of any kind is prohibited,” said Jan Stokley, executive director for the cooperative. “The distribution of drugs on co-op property is strictly banned.”

The fall 2010 “Pirate Code” for the house — a packet which outlines house rules for its residents — does not include a policy on drug use, though it does address issues such as noise violations and smoking.

According to the cooperative’s Board of Directors website, the board adopted a new three-part strategy to address substance abuse in December 2010.

“These ideas came out of conversations held between Cloyne and BSC leadership and UC administrators in the wake of the two drug incidents at Cloyne in Spring/Summer 2010,” the website states.

Stokely said the cooperative is a student-run housing operation with student on-site managers trained to supervise the operations at Cloyne.

However, Kelly said a that third party on-site manager might be better suited than a student manager to oversee the cooperative’s activity, and that the case seeks to prove that the university and the cooperative administrators knew or should have known about illegal activities at Cloyne.


Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the lawsuit was filed Thursday. In fact, it was filed Tuesday.

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  • 123

    When I went to Cal I kinda got the idea that you are just there to go to your classes, learn the material, and eventually get a diploma. It certainly didn’t feel like a high school, where I’d expect some kind of education on how ‘drugs are bad.’ By the time you’re 21 and in college it’s pretty much expected that you’re responsible for your own actions and would understand this kind of stuff.
    So if the mother should sue anyone, it should probably be herself

  • Tom G.

    I’m pissed at UC for admitting this loser as a student in the first place.  Maybe I should sue them too.

  • Guest

    It’s all sad.  But Darwin was right. He’s now out of the gene pool.

  • Give It_a Rest

    give me a fucking break. this guy was what – 21 years old – when he did a bunch of blow, had a heart attack, and then blood loss to the brain. now he’s a vegetable and his mom is pissed at UC?
    EVERYONE KNOWS COKE IS DANGEROUS. EVERYONE KNOWS THE AGE OF MAJORITY IS 18.

    Bitch, this could have happened anywhere, privately owned residence or appt.
    It was in a Co-Op? Happenstance.
    NEWSFLASH: UC CANNOT BABYSIT YOUR 21-YEAR OLD KID 24/7.
    you would have to be retarded to assume otherwise.

    He took the risk, he paid for it.
    Shit happens.
    Now pass me the flake, ’cause I’m fixin’ to get good ‘n’ geeked, son!

  • Grayson

    It was only really a matter of time until this happened.  Mrs. Gibson cannot take personal responsibility for the incident caused by her son.  I knew John Gibson, lived at the Co-ops with him, never bought any drugs from him, but knew that he was the one that sold them.  A friend of mine took classes with him and started getting Ecstasy from him that he claimed was “really speedy”.  I believe that if John Gibson was soliciting people on campus to purchase drugs from him, it stands to reason that it was not the co-ops fault that he overdosed on his own supply.  That he was allowed a second chance to live in student housing after being put on a probationary period at the dorms that was harshing his mellow too much, might be the fault of the BSC.  Shame on the Lawyer for taking this families money, the UC & the co-ops have had harm reduction & drug information meetings for many years.  This is a matter of personal liability as long as it wasn’t the co-op management that didn’t call the police right away, that’s on the druggie room-mates who honestly do not represent that much of the house.  Lawsuit, diverted.

  • Rmen818

    he was my lab partner my junior year … very bright guy. i knew from then he raged at his co-op. honestly, he’s a smart individual who knew the repercussions from what i saw.  the responsibility i feel at this point was his own.  but still, there shouldn’t have been a delay in calling 911. i think suing for that irresponsibility is justified… not the ingestion of the illicit substance which he has been doing for quite some time– to his own discretion. it’s just a shame that it all succumbed to this.

    god willing he’ll pull through!

  • I Sanguine

    Remember that guy who sued his dry cleaner for $54 million? Anyone can file a lawsuit, regardless of merit but not everyone will win. Don’t fault the parents, however. Fault their lawyer because he/she/it should have their ticket pulled.

  • Anthony Rodriguez

    The guy was a drug dealer and he ingested the same drugs he sold.  Who forced him to take the drugs?  This kid even has a history of misbehaving and neglecting to follow school rules and regulations (suspended in HS, written up in the dorms for drug use and alcohol consumption).  If the mother would have been more diligent in watching over her son, providing repercussions for his actions (instead of encouraging his behavior by “letting” him move into a co-op which she is now suing),  and teaching him proper substance use (prescription meds,  alcohol, illegal drugs, etc), he may not have ended up this way.  He was best friends with his roommate at the time.  And now his roommate feels devastated and crushed because he is the one to blame for his roommates carelessness.

    Still, I guess it would have been better to call 9/11 ASAP instead of fumbling around, drawing straws to determine who will take the blame (thus causing the delay in providing emergency services and leading to his sever brain aneurism and infarction).  Now the mother is obviously faced with the hard decision of suing her son’s old best friend/roommate (who has no money being a student, and is thus a less fiscally attractive option when you have +$3,000 to pay a month medical bills ) or try and recruit sympathetic and, for lack of a better word, prudent community members in supporting this lawsuit to take away money that would be better spent on providing higher levels of education for tens of thousands of UC Students.  Should the university have to fork out money for the mistakes of a few individuals?  Could more have been done to ensure John wouldn’t have been caught up in this situation? The preventative measures in the co-op system could use some revising, but you don’t see intelligent Berkeley kids (like me and other readers) collapsing like flies from experimenting with drugs and alcohol on a daily.

    There’s a lesson to be learned in this.  And that is to know yourself, know your tolerance, and promote responsible drug use.  Kids have and will continue using drugs.  We just have to prevent them from ODing and causing tragedies like these to impact the larger community negatively.

    • Ibeguest

      If he was in fact a drug dealer that is very relevant to this matter

    • [There’s a lesson to be learned in this.  And that is to know yourself,
      know your tolerance, and promote responsible drug use.  Kids have and
      will continue using drugs.]

      I was generally in agreement with you until this last paragraph. The lesson to be learned is that recreational drug use is NOT “cool” or “hip” – it’s for losers. Drug dealers are also dirtbags, the type of people who you simply don’t tolerate on your job, in your dorm. People in places like Mexico and Columbia are dying over their turf wars as they feed their scummy network of gutter slime that sells this poison to Americans.

      The kid got exactly what he deserved – he’s going to spend the rest of his pathetic life as a shriveled up organism making gurgling noises in some hospital bed somewhere. Let his mommy pay the cost for her piss-poor parenting, not the taxpayers of the state of California

    • Corintha Ugande

      Who ARE you?  A friend of the roommate who is “devastated”?  The roommate is a drug dealer who was caught selling drugs in his room and blamed them on John Gibson, who had been in a coma for a month.  This “devastated” roommate was charged with possession with intent to sell narcotics.  This “devastated” roommate posted to his FB wall a month after the event with John Gibson that this was “the best birthday of his life”.  The roommate was in no way a friend of John’s.  Just a roommate.  And a person who, at best, lacked the compassion and morality to save his roommate’s life, and, at worst, a murdering scumbag whose own parents want nothing to do with him.  I assume that roommate boy is your friend, and I think that you should choose your friends more wisely.

      • Anthony Rodriguez

        Are we arguing over the semantics of what it means to be a “friend” or the severity of  a drug incident that has lead to a larger ripple effect impacting the greater, UC community? It is obvious you know details beyond the incident that transpired (the charges the roommate faced, medical knowledge of John’s condition one month past the incident, access to the roommate’s Facebook to view his status updates, even predictions for how the roommate’s parents must feel about him).  Yet you are selectively choosing which details to share with the group.  Eye-witness accounts point to BOTH roommates selling illegal narcotics in their room.  You even see replies by readers pointing to prior knowledge of John selling drugs before the incident.  If John and his roommate really weren’t friends, who in their right mind would accept a handful of drugs from someone they don’t trust??  If John didn’t feel safe in his own room, or didn’t trust who he was living with, shouldn’t he have sought help or an alternative living situation?  Wouldn’t you agree that if you are not preventing a catastrophe like this from happening, you are simply enabling it?

        No one is going to press narcotics charges on a boy, excuse me, young MAN, who is essentially brain dead and slowly regaining motor function.  Had John been in his roommate’s position, I don’t think he would have fared any better.  Both had ingested large quantities of drugs on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day.  Since they were under the heavy influence of drugs, can you accurately assess their amount of life-saving capabilities, let alone the amount of compassion and morality that was surely evading them?

        Who am I, you ask? The voice of reason and analysis.  Who are you, though? My guess is either the mother or a friend of the family since you know such intimate details. I have no stake in the matter, however.  I graduated from UC Berkeley while buoying in an exorbitant amount of fees building up, no thanks to the lawsuit that is being pressed due to the mother’s actions.  It seems like you have deeper, more underlying feelings beyond the scope of this case since you are willing to take out your opinions of the roommate on me.  I hope you are capable of finding help and solace elsewhere, though, and not in the pocketbooks of UC students and California residents.

  • Perezcpt

    So hes just a vegetable now?

  • Noway

    don’t do drugs and this story doesn’t exist.

    • Guest

       Yeah, I seriously don’t understand how you can really sue someone who did not sanction this, does not promote the use of illegal drugs, and who claims no responsibility for an adult who’s brain was probably fairly damaged before he even used drugs. It’s sad, but they’re probably doing it because they just can’t afford the medical bills and they need the money.