Wrongful death lawsuit filed after Penn fraternity fall

The University of Pennsylvania and a national fraternity have been named as defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit following the New Year’s Eve death of a John Carroll University student. The student died as a result of the brain injuries he sustained at an on-campus Phi Kappa Sigma New Year’s party Jan. 1, 2011.

The lawsuit was filed by the family of the deceased student in May 2011; however, details only became public recently after the Phi Kappa Sigma International Fraternity decided to suspend the charter of the Alpha chapter, commonly called “Skulls.” The family is seeking “in excess of $50,000” from the defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the fatal accident occurred at approximately 3:00 a.m. on Jan. 1 when the 20-year-old student approached a second flight of stairs at the Skulls frat house and “tripped and fell over a deficient railing to the ground below and landed on his head.” The student died a few days later as a result of the massive brain injuries he sustained.

The lawsuit asserts that the University, the fraternity and an independent housing corporation that owned the house were all negligently responsible for the fatal accident. Additionally, the lawsuit charges that a Pennsylvania liquor store that sold the underage student alcohol the night before without checking his ID also shares liability.

The lawsuit charges that the University, fraternity and housing corporation were negligent by knowingly allowing underage drinking to occur at the on-campus party and not making sure that the frat house was up to code. The lawsuit states that the railing the student fell over was “in a defective and dangerous condition.”

All named defendants have denied any wrongdoing. On Sept. 16, the fraternity announced that “the charter for the Alpha chapter has been suspended and the chapter itself has been closed.” In a recent statement, an attorney representing the family said he believes the case is “worth in the millions.”

Source: The Daily Pennsylvanian, “Penn, Phi Kappa Sigma implicated in lawsuit,” Seth Zweifler, Sept. 19, 2012

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