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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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