Former UA student’s wrongful death lawsuit moves forward

Megan Rondini died by suicide in 2016, months after reporting that she was raped in Tuscaloosa. Now, the wrongful death lawsuit against her alleged rapist can move forward. 

Members+of+the+Tuscaloosa+community+march+in+a+2017+vigil+to+honor+Megan+Rondini.+CW+File

Members of the Tuscaloosa community march in a 2017 vigil to honor Megan Rondini. CW File

Isabel Hope | @isabamahope , Contributing Writer

The lawsuit against a Tuscaloosa man in the death of Megan Rondini will proceed following the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday. Rondini, a former UA student, died by suicide in Feburary 2016 after reporting that she had been raped by T.J. Bunn. 

Rondini’s parents, Michael and Cindy Rondini, are pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against her alleged rapist.

Bunn, the son of a local construction company owner and prominent member of the Tuscaloosa community, was accused of drugging Rondini at Innisfree Irish Pub and raping her at his home in July 2015. He maintains they had consensual sexual relations.

The case was previously blocked while the court considered whether Bunn could be liable for her suicide. Friday’s ruling determined that the cause of Rondini’s death does not excuse Bunn from potential liability. 

U.S. District Judge David Proctor can now continue with the federal case. Last year, Proctor wrote that Rondini’s parents presented “sufficient evidence” to support that Bunn’s alleged actions led to Rondini’s death.

Her parents claim she was mistreated by Tuscaloosa County Investigators, the University and DCH Regional Medical Center. 

Under Alabama law, rape victims must prove that they “earnestly resisted their attackers.” The investigator who interviewed Rondini concluded that no rape occured because she did not kick or hit Bunn.

Rondini attempted to seek counseling, but a staff therapist at the UA Counseling Center reportedly turned her away because the therapist knew Bunn’s family. 

Documents in a prior lawsuit described Bunn as being part of a family that is “well connected and powerful in the Tuscaloosa community, and were major financial supporters of UA.”

Rondini withdrew from the University before the end of the Fall 2015 semester, returned to Texas and enrolled at Southern Methodist University. 

Her story was brought to national attention in 2017 by BuzzFeed News, who interviewed her family, friends and community members. 

In early 2017, Rondini’s parents filed a federal complaint against the University for not following up with mental health treatment for their daughter. The University’s official statement to BuzzFeed said it would never “refuse treatment or resources to an individual” based on what the complaint described.