Family files lawsuit against UPenn after daughter's death

- A lawsuit targeting the University of Pennsylvania blames the school for failing to offer adequate help to a student who took her own life. It happened two years ago. The suit claims the student was pleading for help to four employees and they didn't do enough to help her. Her parents are suing for monetary compensation and for a change.

FOX 29's Joyce Evans has the details.

It was too much for the mother of University of Penn junior Olivia Kong two years after documented, repeated cries for help to several authorities at Penn were grossly mishandled, according to a new civil lawsuit.

"He reassured her that the cost of an ER visit would be less than the cost of her funeral," attorney Carol Nelson Shepherd said.

That's what attorney Carol Nelson Shepherd says a Penn psychiatrist told the Wharton School Student just hours before she walked to the SEPTA train station at 40th and Market in her pajamas—all caught on surveillance cameras.

"We can see her walking into a dark tunnel. The train operator saw her. She lifted her head, but he couldn't stop in time," attorney Carol Nelson Shepherd said.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges over several days Olivia communicated she was in severe distress over falling behind in a class and not feeling well she was thinking of suicide and then announcing she was planning her suicide.

"When they last saw their daughter on Sunday night, they had no idea of the extraordinary risk of harm that she was under and she was not getting help from Penn,"  attorney Carol Nelson Shepherd said.

Four Penn employees are mentioned in the suit. Her lawyer saying when Olivia first spoke by phone with the on-call psychiatrist 1:30 in the morning 4 days before her suicide he allegedly told the student to come into the office during business hours.

"He also did not call her parents to tell them of his conversation with Olivia," attorney Carol Nelson Shepherd said.

The suit includes a list of failings by an academic advisor, a social worker and another therapist at the crisis center.

"Penn is responsible for all of them, responsible for the system that they set up that failed this student," attorney Carol Nelson Shepherd said. 

When reached out to for comment, a Penn spokesperson said it would not comment on pending legal matters. The university has yet to confirm what standard protocol is for handling cases like Olivia's.

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