Blog : Texas

Client v. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity et al.

We were lead counsel for a young man who sustained severe injuries when he was beaten and compelled to drink gallons of water in a highly-publicized incident of hazing by a fraternity at Southern Methodist University.  The national fraternity and members disclaimed any responsibility for the pledge’s serious injuries, claiming that he voluntarily participated in the hazing and that the fraternity owed him no legal duty to protect him from hazing by student members of the local chapter.  Extensive discovery was undertaken and, through the production of documents by and oral depositions of the national fraternity officials, we established numerous prior risk management violations and inadequate supervision by the national fraternity.  Despite having allegedly banned violent hazing, the national fraternity knew that its members were conducting “underground hazing” because fraternity members looked down upon and did not want to admit “paper members,”  e.g. those who merely filled out the paperwork to gain admission as opposed to submitting to regular beatings and hazing.   The evidence also established inadequate oversight of the national of its membership program.  The national fraternity eventually agreed to pay our client a substantial financial settlement.

Estates of Numerous Deceased College Students v. Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, et al.

Represented the families of five young students who were killed on the side of the road near a fraternity party sponsored by the Pi Eta Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon at Texas A&M University.  The fraternity is located next to a 5 lane, unlit 65 mph highway, and it closed the gates to its parking lot and reserved those safe spaces as a “perk” for its own members.  Others were directed to park on the highway shoulder, despite the fact that the police had warned the fraternity that this was unsafe and that it had to do something about this practice.  Discovery demonstrated that the fraternity engaged in numerous violations of its own risk-management rules, and that it considered “safe and adequate” parking at this location a “basic safety consideration.”  Yet, it had a long-standing practice of directing its invited guests to park on the highway shoulder – in harm’s way.  The evening immediately prior to this horrific tragedy, the fraternity chapter president was warned by the police to stop directing invited guests to the highway shoulder because, in his words, somebody might get killed out there.  The fraternity refused to heed this advice and sponsored an even larger party the next night, closed its parking gates, and directed guests to the dangerous shoulder.  Six wonderful people died.  Despite this and other compelling evidence, the trial court dismissed the action (without issuing a written opinion) and the families’ appeals all the way to the Texas Supreme Court were denied, reflecting how justice can still be elusive even in the most compelling of circumstances.  Legal briefs identifying the facts and circumstances underlying this tragedy (and telling the whole story) are available upon request.  One substantial financial settlement was obtained on behalf of one family under its uninsured motorist policy.  To this date, our firm is committed to these families and the pursuit of the justice they were wrongly denied.  In that regard, we have pursued TKE for its wrongdoing in other jurisdictions and held it accountable for the harm (including wrongful death) caused by its negligence.

The following are publicly available documents, Pleading 1 and Pleading 2, from this case.  Media coverage of the Tau Kappa Epsilon incident can be reviewed here.