COLUMBIA — A tentative settlement agreement has been reached in the three-and-a-half-year-long wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Aaron O’Neal against employees of MU's athletic department, according to documents filed in Boone County Circuit Court.
In a letter to the court’s civil division, attorney Michael C. Rader, who represents Deborah O'Neal, Aaron O'Neal's mother, said the case “recently settled” and that a hearing to decide whether to approve the settlement terms would be scheduled soon. In Missouri, settlements must be approved by the court before they are considered binding.
“At this stage, we can’t talk about any settlement details, but from what I understand, we should be able to shortly,” Rader said. “My understanding is that once a settlement is approved by the court, all parties will send out a press release with the details.”
The University of Missouri System, which contracted the firm of Ford, Parshall and Baker to represent the 14 defendants in the lawsuit, had spent almost $375,000 in legal defense costs as of Feb. 25, according to documents obtained by the Missourian under the Sunshine Law.
Jeffrey Parshall said he was not at liberty to discuss any proposed settlement of the case and said he could not comment on whether a hearing scheduled for March 23 was set to finalize any settlement terms.
The lawsuit was filed in 2005 by Lonnie O’Neal, the father of Aaron O’Neal, the 19-year-old MU football player who collapsed during a training practice and died shortly after at University Hospital. Deborah O'Neal was soon added to the lawsuit.