A 20-year-old Kansas University student has filed a lawsuit against the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, accusing the local chapter and its national organization of permitting underage drinking that allegedly contributed to a severe head injury the student suffered at the KU chapter’s house in March 2011.
Andrew Charles Johnson, Salina, filed the suit in Douglas County District Court on March 6, naming these defendants: the fraternity’s KU chapter; the chapter’s alumni board, which owns the Sig Ep house at 1645 Tennessee St.; the fraternity’s national corporate organization; and two fraternity members.
One of the fraternity members named in the suit remains unknown, identified only as “John Doe #1.” The other is Kansas University student Rashid Franklin “Scooter” Mebarek.
According to Johnson’s version of events, as outlined in court documents, he was 18 years old and had been living at the Sig Ep house for about seven months on March 11, 2011, when he attended an off-site fraternity party called “Heaven and Hell.” At the party, he says, he and other underage fraternity members were provided unlimited access to alcohol and encouraged to drink.
After Johnson and other fraternity members left the party and returned to the house, Johnson went to bed. He was startled awake by Mebarek and another fraternity member “messing with” him, he says. According to Johnson's account, he emerged from his room, confused, and found himself gripped in a headlock, either by Mebarek or the other fraternity member. Then, his head was rammed into a concrete wall, causing what Johnson called a “massive closed head injury.”
Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical confirmed that it responded to a medical emergency at the house that night. Johnson says he was first taken by ambulance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital and then transported by Lifestar helicopter ambulance to Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, Kan.
The suit claims the injury caused brain damage, permanently taking away Johnson’s sense of smell and leaving him with cognitive deficiencies.
Representatives of the fraternity at its national office in Richmond, Va., said they could not comment on the case because it is pending in court. Attempts to reach representatives of Mebarek and Johnson were unsuccessful.
Elsewhere around the country over the years, the fraternity has been the subject of other lawsuits, and in some cases, sanctions, at the University of Miami, the University of Georgia, Ohio Wesleyan University, and California Polytechnic State University.