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Court rules in favor of fraternity in lawsuit following assault

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed summary judgment in favor of a fraternity whose members lived in a Terre Haute private residence where a man visiting for a party was assaulted. The victim claimed the fraternity should be liable because members of the college chapter hosted the party.

Andrew Rogers traveled from Northwestern University to Terre Haute to attend a birthday party at the home of defendants Ancil Jackson, Brian Mifflin Jr. and Joshua Kearby. They were members of Sigma Chi, but did not live in a Sigma Chi-owned property because the chapter’s house was repossessed. All members lived on campus or in private residences. Some items from the fraternity were stored at the defendants’ home to be used during meetings at an on-campus location.

While at the party, Rogers, who was intoxicated, was punched in the eye by Dana Scifres. The defendants weren’t home when the assault took place. Rogers is appealing the grant of summary judgment in favor of Sigma Chi International, its Terre Haute chapter and Jackson, Mifflin Jr. and Kearby.

On appeal, he argued that Sigma Chi had a duty to protect him under premises liability principles because the chapter had possession of the premises where he was injured; the defendants had a duty to protect him under negligence principles because the assault was foreseeable or because the defendants assumed such a duty; and the International fraternity was vicariously liable for the acts of everyone at the residence because it had apparent authority over them as Sigma Chi’s agents.

The Court of Appeals rejected all of his claims in Andrew J. Rogers v. Sigma Chi International Fraternity, Theta Pi of Sigma Chi, Ancil Jackson, Brian Mifflin, Jr., and Joshua Kearby, 84A04-1305-CT-224. Sigma Chi did not control the premises, so summary judgment was appropriate, the court held. The party invitation explicitly said the party was not a rush event and non-fraternity brothers lived in the house. Chapter business was not conducted there.

The attack on Rogers was not foreseeable, so the defendants had no duty to protect him, Judge Melissa May wrote. Another roommate threw the party and invited both Rogers and his attacker, Scifres. Rogers even admitted he didn’t think anyone could have anticipated the assault would occur. The defendants also did not assume a duty to protect Rogers against an attack.

And regarding his claim to Sigma Chi’s vicarious liability, “We decline to hold the presence of fraternity materials in a private residence amounts to a manifestation by an international fraternity that the tenants of that residence are acting as the fraternity’s agents. Summary judgment for the defendants on that ground was not error,” May wrote.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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