Reportedly violent incident at KU fraternity leads to civil lawsuit

A reportedly drunken and racially motivated fight at a University of Kansas fraternity has led to a civil lawsuit accusing the fraternity’s local and national chapters of negligence.

The lawsuit, which claims the Theta Epsilon chapter of Pi Kappa Phi violated Interfraternity Council rules regarding alcohol, was filed by attorney Jerry Levy on behalf of Philip Hawley in Douglas County District Court.

The lawsuit, filed in October, also claims the national chapter of Pi Kappa Phi is liable for the local chapter’s conduct for “its failure to educate, supervise and train its members” and requests damages in excess of $75,000.

The evening of Oct. 31, 2015, Hawley, a KU student, arrived at Pi Kappa Phi, 1537 Tennessee St., for a party alongside two of his friends, who are African American, the lawsuit says. In violation of Interfraternity Council rules, “alcoholic drinks were served to members of the public who were invited to the party.”

Around midnight, as Hawley, who is not African American, and his two friends stood outside the house they were approached by “one or more intoxicated members of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity,” who did not want to let Hawley’s friends inside and used a racial slur to express that opinion, according to the lawsuit.

Soon the groups began pushing and shoving, the lawsuit says, and “then one fraternity member punched (Hawley) in the face, followed by numerous fraternity members attacking and hitting” him.

In the end, Hawley’s jaw was broken, the lawsuit says. As a result he has required surgery, “including wiring of his jaw, and will require further surgery.”

The lawsuit argues hard liquor served at the party caused fraternity members to become drunk and use the “offensive language, which directly resulted in (Hawley) being assaulted and battered.”

The fraternity’s national chapter is at fault, according to the lawsuit, by failing to prevent the drunken and offensive conduct.

Levy, the plaintiff’s attorney, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Todd Shelton, a spokesman for the National Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit, though the organization’s attorney, Theresa Otto, denied Levy’s claims in court filings.

In addition, Otto filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming if Hawley was indeed injured, the reported actions of the fraternity members “were appropriate, warranted, in self-defense or in defense of its property and or persons, and reasonable under all circumstances existing at the time.”

Police were not dispatched to the scene after Hawley was reportedly injured.

Lawrence Police Department spokeswoman Kim Murphree said officers did not respond to the address either on Oct. 31 or Nov. 1.

KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said, however, that several university fraternities and sororities hold security contracts with Mil-Spec Security Group “to monitor their properties over the weekends and at other times when desired.”

Those contracts are held privately between the fraternities, sororities and security company, Barcomb-Peterson said, and KU does not coordinate the arrangement on their behalf.

Contacted in October and again on Friday, representatives from Mil-Spec did not return phone calls seeking information on whether the company responded to Pi Kappa Phi for the reported fight.

A trial date has not yet been set for the lawsuit, though the parties are scheduled to appear in court in January for a case management conference.