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Wrongful Death Lawsuit for Tyler R. Hill Against Ambassadors Group, docleaf, et al., Officially Settled

MOUND, Minn., Aug. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Allen and Sheryl Hill of Mound, Minn., today announced the official settlement of their civil action for wrongful death of their 16-year-old son, Tyler Hill; invasion of privacy; and fraud against Ambassadors Group Inc., People to People International, docleaf Ltd. and other individuals. The Hills signed the release on July 30. The terms of the settlement are confidential. Tyler died on a People to People Student Ambassador Trip to Japan on June 29, 2007. Since Tyler's death, the Hill's have been on a passionate mission to protect other traveling youth and have sought accountability, justice, restitution and reform.

REFORM: Traveling Youth's Standards of Safety Legislation

The Hill's mission for the safety of kids participating in travel programs is far from over. They seek reform through a bi-partisan federal law and the Traveling Youth's Standards of Safety (TY's SOS legislation), and have engaged Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN). The pursued legislation is to ensure safety measures, sanctions and penalties are in place to protect traveling youth. No safety standards, sanctions or penalties exist to protect children's health and safety rights while entrusted to third parties, especially during travel programs. Children have been denied health care, died, hurt, abandoned, raped and suffered severe illnesses, while traveling with some student travel programs. There is currently no oversight committee watch dogging the student travel industry.

Danielle Grijalva, director for the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, applauds the Hill's advocacy for safety and sanctions during travel abroad programs. She said, "I receive numerous complaints about other travel agencies from children and their parents about supervisors being intoxicated, molestations, children being denied health care when they are sick, unsanitary living quarters and 'unaccounted for' children. Parents need to inform themselves of the safety record of agencies and supervisors they are entrusting their kids to." Grijalva recommends parents contact foreign police authorities to report abuse and then contact local, state and federal agencies to report child endangerment. Until laws are passed to impose sanctions and potential imprisonment, Grijalva believes that egregious stories like Tyler's will remain all too common.


On June 10, 2009, Judge Charles Porter granted a motion permitting the Hills to amend their complaint to add claims for punitive damages against Ambassadors Group Inc.; Ambassador Programs; People to People Student Ambassadors; docleaf Ltd.; Dr. David Perl and Larry McGonnell, both in England; and teacher leaders Sue Stahr, Pat Veum-Smith, Angela Hanson and Josh Aberle of Minnesota. The court's order is public but its memorandum is confidential.

The Hills have achieved accountability and restitution. Ambassadors Group Inc. CEO Jeff Thomas released a public apology on June 22, 2009. The apology stated, " ... there are steps that all of the leaders should have taken that could have prevented Tyler's death ... "

Evidence before Hennepin County Court

Sheryl Hill was told by one of the leaders, that on June 26, 2007, Tyler thought he had altitude sickness after climbing Mt. Fuji, and he wanted to go to the doctor. The leader gave him water, and told him to go to his room and work through it. Afterward, Veum-Smith, Hanson and Stahr joined Aberle in his room, where all of the leaders drank beer until sometime between 12:30 and 12:45 a.m. Reiko Tanaka, who was employed as an English-speaking Japanese guide for the People to People trip in June of 2007, testified that she did not notice anything different in the appearance, demeanor or energy of Stahr the next day.

Stahr was a student ambassador leader on a trip to New Zealand where another student died. The Hills were not informed of her prior safety record. While Tyler was dying in the hospital, Aberle and Hanson went through Tyler's personal belongings and took photographs of his medications and insulin. All four leaders had training on dehydration. Tyler had been vomiting for hours and asked for enough water to feed a family. He was held back for the day's activities; his heart stopped less than 10 hours later. Despite specific training to contact the parents or seek medical attention when a child shows 'moderate' signs of dehydration, no phone calls were made to the Hills until Tyler's heart had stopped for more than an hour.

Ambassadors Group; David Perl, MB; Larry McGonnell; and docleaf were sued for invasion of privacy and for violating Minnesota Statutes concerning privacy of medical records. Judge Porter ruled that the violations of the Minnesota Health Records Act and the claims for invasion of privacy were active for trial and denied defendants' motion for summary judgment.

About Tyler Hill

Tyler Hill was born on June 6, 1991, on the anniversary of D-Day, in Edina, Minn. A natural athlete and honor roll student, Tyler was a first year MVP for rugby, a tight end in football, a winger in hockey and an advanced scuba diver. He was a junior officer of the Mound Westonka High School DECA club, and he discovered and reported a bomb threat to school authorities and was recognized for his actions. Ty will be remembered for his big smile and tender heart. He passed away on June 29, 2007, while on a People to People Student Ambassadors trip to Tokyo, Japan, apparently from severe dehydration. For more of Tyler's story, visit

SOURCE Hill family
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