Archive for Tuesday, March 19, 2013

KU student sues Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, alleging underage drinking led to head injury

March 19, 2013


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.


bevy 5 years, 3 months ago

OK, I can see suing for assault. In fact, if the police responded to this incident, why weren't the assailants charged at that time? But suing because they "permitted" underage drinking? He CHOSE to drink. Unless they held a gun to his head and forced him to consume alcohol, the suit seems baseless on those grounds.

johnsont1 5 years, 3 months ago

permitting underage drinking is obviously illegal, as is consuming alcohol if you're a minor

Ian_Cummings 5 years, 3 months ago

It was Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical that responded to the incident, not the police. It doesn't appear that anyone filed a police report at the time. Ian Cummings, Lawrence Journal-World.

UneasyRider 5 years, 3 months ago

So, if you're totally stupid. you can sue someone for letting you act stupid? So he claims brain injury when his brain obviously didn't work well in the first case.

Glen Moore 5 years, 3 months ago

Sounds like they were all drunk. He went to bed and passed out and his friends with a higher alcohol tolorance decided to give him a hard time and beat his head into a wall.....Your statement is as dumd as waking your passedout friend up and slamming his head into a wall.

Shane Powers 5 years, 3 months ago

The allegations he made seem to have no connections to underage drinking. Yes, he was drinking. Yes, he was under age. However, being assaulted was not the result of drinking. It was the result of choosing bad friends. Personal responsibility seems to have gone by the wayside at some point. He is responsible for his ignorant actions, just as the other young men need to be held accountable for their own. Why weren't criminal charges filed in a situation where someone was taken by ambulance to the hospital as a result of someone else's actions?

Curveball 5 years, 3 months ago

The drinking had nothing to do with the attack by the other fraternity member. Do you think he would not have been attacked if he had not been drinking? The victim was probably discouraged from making a police report by the fraternity. He was probably assured that he would be taken care of and not reporting it would be in his and the fraternities' best interest.

Mike Ford 5 years, 3 months ago

being a person that walked away from another sig ep chapter in the area as a freshman a couple of decades ago I can attest as a freshman and a pledge you really don't have much say. just like the military once you pledge you're kind of their property unless something like this happens and like the military they cast you on your own and make you sue them. the whole leadership and opportunity with this generation of spe is kind of a farce. older alumni from the really insane days are kind of good people.

golfdude 5 years, 2 months ago

sounds like the world is out to get you tuschkahouma

Drfingo 5 years, 3 months ago

Agreed! Having been in and around several frat parties they do almost hold a gun to your head to drink. 'Keg Kills' where all the freshman surround a fresh keg of beer and are forced to drink until it is finished often end with under-performers tied to a chair and harassed is not uncommon. That being said it was the physical assault and not the drinking that caused this. Sucks for this kid, but as was said, he shares culpability in this matter.

halfnhalfkw 5 years, 3 months ago

When is the last time you were at a frat party? The 80s? Frat Parties in general do not include this kind of hazing anymore.

repaste 5 years, 3 months ago

Yea right. Hazing is much reduced overall, but in full force many places.

Armored_One 5 years, 3 months ago

Since there was no police report filed, is there any actual proof that his head was "rammed" into a wall, as opposed to horsing around, tripping over something and falling into the wall? Just kind of curious...

kernal 5 years, 3 months ago

Probably have to wait for the court hearing for the answer.

kansanbygrace 5 years, 3 months ago

"If a person is not smart enough to not drink, he deserves what he gets."

Is that what you got out of this? Jeez.

It's completely obvious that the victim of the assault, whether he had been drinking or not, was the victim of assault by another person who was drunk and acting stupid. The drinking was involved and almost certainly part of the cause.

If the fraternity allowed meth parties, or knew their members were shooting heroin, they'd be culpable for the same reason.

The fraternities encourage this stupid and illegal behavior, and have a full share of responsibility. They are as obligated as a dormitory or any other "en loco parentis" organization to keep their members and dues-payers safe. They did not do that.

Bring on the suit; let the court decide.

golfdude 5 years, 2 months ago

I just don't get it. There are two cases here. One is about assault, and an individual should be held accountable if it is true, though it sounds like this kid was black out drunk anyway. And the second is underage drinking, which in almost all cases is a choice. This article never says he was "forced" to drink, just "permitted" and"encouraged." This little brat needs to get out of his bubble of blaming others for his poor decisions and grow up. It's is a shame that cases like this are even present in our legal system, and the worst part is although the fraternity isn't really guilty of anything, they will probably settle with this loser to avoid the bad press and court costs.

Mike Ford 5 years, 2 months ago

the old sig eps I heard about walked off the top of three story frat houses and broke their legs. they also got hammered and drove head on into fire trucks with sirens blaring and walked away alive.

Brandon Mailand 5 years, 2 months ago

Really what needs to change to stop things like this from happening is to lower the drinking age back to 18. Young adults are not getting enough information and modelling from adults on how to responsibly consume alcohol; instead, many go off to college without ever having consumed alcohol. This new substance and experience paired with peer pressure is too much for some 18 year olds to handle. If there was a way for parents to legally introduce their young adult children to alcohol I believe it would be treated with more respect.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.