EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J., July 19, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The July 12, 2015 death of 18-year-old star athlete Tiffany Valiante, best known for playing volleyball above the net so well that she earned a full college athletic scholarship, was wrongly classified as a suicide by the New Jersey Medical Examiner and must be reversed, according to a lawsuit just filed by Ms. Valiante's parents and announced at a news conference this morning.
Friends and coaches, including Stockton University and East Coast Crush woman's volleyball head coach Allison Walker, joined parents Stephen and Dianne Valiante, sisters Jessica and Krystal, and grandmother Minerva Valiante as trial attorney Paul R. D'Amato, of the D'Amato Law Firm, P.C., outlined the claims (which do not include a claim for money damages) in what is believed to be an unprecedented civil action filed in New Jersey Superior Court, Atlantic County. Defendants include the New Jersey Office of Attorney General and the state Medical Examiner's Office, which is under the direction of the attorney general.
"After a thorough review of all available investigative records, it is clear that the Medical Examiner had no scientific or medical basis from which to conclude that Tiffany Valiante took her own life," said Mr. D'Amato. "Our investigation to date indicates – and the full story will emerge at trial – that the state's inquiry was flawed; it was unprofessional, uninformed, and relied on equally superficial investigative efforts by New Jersey Transit. The Medical Examiner's finding regarding manner of death – issued only five days after the incident - should unquestionably be retracted and nullified."
Ms. Valiante died as a result of catastrophic injuries sustained when she was struck by an unscheduled New Jersey Transit commuter train about 11 p.m. near the Tilton Ave. bridge in Galloway, more than four miles from her family home in Mays Landing. That weekend she was making preparations – mainly clothes shopping - to attend her first year at Mercy College (Dobbs Ferry, New York), where she was awarded an athletic scholarship. An all conference volleyball player at Oakcrest High School and for the East Coast Crush Volleyball Club, she was heavily recruited by colleges and longed to play at the highest level – possibly someday in the Olympic games - while pursuing a career in criminal justice.
According to the complaint, investigators failed to interview numerous material witnesses, conduct a proper site investigation and examination of relevant physical evidence, including Ms. Valiante's cell phone history. Records yet to be provided by either the state or NJT will be subpoenaed during pre-trial discovery.
"Our daughter was a lot of things – including a loving daughter, sister, aunt, Godmother, an incredible teammate, great friend," said Dianne Valiante. "What she was not by all accounts was someone who had reason to take her own life. In volleyball, and in life, she lived above the net, reaching for the sky and the stars. She had everything to live for."
Allison Walker, Stockton University's women's volleyball coach, who also coached Ms. Valiante, added, "To know Tiffany was to love her as a player and a role model for her teammates. She was so looking forward to the start of college and playing against the very best competition. She was Olympic caliber, not just as a player, but as a person."
Paul R. D'Amato, D'Amato Law Firm / [email protected]/ 609.926.3300
Steph Rosenfeld / [email protected] / 215.514.4101
SOURCE D'Amato Law Firm