Ithaca, N.Y. — The father of a student who jumped to his death from a bridge in 2010 has agreed to drop his lawsuit against Cornell University and Ithaca under the terms of a settlement, according to officials and federal court records.

Cornell said Thursday it has agreed to fund a scholarship — which records state may range from $1.6 million to $1.8 million — in honor of the student who committed suicide.

Ithaca’s insurers have chosen to pay $100,000 rather than continue fighting the case, Mayor Svante Myrick said in a statement.

Howard Ginsburg’s decision to drop his lawsuit comes after a years-long legal battle in which he blamed Cornell and Ithaca for the death of his son, Bradley, who jumped from the Thurston Avenue Bridge. Howard Ginsburg sought tens of millions of dollars.

The Thurston Avenue Bridge.

Federal court records show that all three parties have filed motions to end the lawsuit, which had been scheduled to go to trial.

The decision of the insurers representing Ithaca to settle came over the “explicit objection” of the city, Mayor Myrick said in an email. The insurer “made nothing more than a cold business decision” beyond the merits of the case, Myrick said.

“Had this case proceeded, the City remains confident that it would have prevailed. Mr. Ginsburg’s death is a tragedy, but not a tragedy of the City’s making,” Myrick said.

“Although no settlement agreement has yet been signed, it appears that the insurer (Travelers) and the plaintiff intend to proceed with this settlement, each apparently motivated to settle than to establish the quality and safety of the Thurston Avenue Bridge. The City designed and built an award-winning bridge, and bears no liability for the plaintiff’s misplaced lawsuit.”

A statement from Cornell did not detail the cost of the scholarship, but said that it will be “perpetual” and in “full settlement of all claims.” The statement from Vice President for University Relations Joel Malina said its terms would be announced at a later date.

“Bradley’s death was, and remains, a tragedy. We are grateful we were able to resolve this matter to everyone’s satisfaction and look forward to being able to honor Bradley’s memory with a scholarship in his name,” Malina’s statement said.

Despite the apparent resolution of the case to the parties’ satisfaction, Howard Ginsburg’s attorney has expressed his frustration with being left out of discussions related to the settlement, according to court records.

“I wish to express my concern and distress over the Court’s decision to exclude me as plaintiff’s counsel from participation in the recent telephonic settlement discussions” on Monday, wrote Ginsburg’s attorney, Kenneth F. McCallion.

McCallion added that he had learned that the range of the settlement discussed is $1.6-1.8 million.

“I am deeply concerned that my exclusion from settlement discussions has impaired my ability to represent my client in this important matter,” he said.

Howard Ginsburg had claimed that Cornell and Ithaca should have prevented the “inevitable” suicide attempts, pointing to how they designed the bridge when it was rebuilt in 2006 and 2007.

“In every instance where design safety issues conflicted with aesthetic concerns, the safety concerns lost out,” says a trial memo Ginsburg submitted to the court.

But Ithaca and Cornell disagree, saying the bridge was specifically designed to deter climbing.

“There was nothing dangerous or defective about” the bridge, Cornell says in its brief. “It served its purpose thousands of times every day as pedestrians, bicycles, and motor vehicles crossed it safely to get from one point to another.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.