The parents of a University of Notre Dame freshman severely injured in a 2019 fall in a campus dormitory during a party filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the school, which they claim condoned a “quasi-fraternity atmosphere” at an on-campus residence hall.
The lawsuit filed in St. Joseph County by Steve and Debbie Tennant of Gurnee, Illinois, claims the university put their son, Sean, 20, at risk. Sean Tennant, who was 18 at the time, survived the 30-foot fall on a stairwell in Sorin Hall but suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him with “a catastrophic decline in neurocognitive and functional abilities,” according to the lawsuit.
A Notre Dame spokesman on Tuesday said the university had yet to be served with a copy of the lawsuit and had no comment.
The lawsuit accuses the Roman Catholic university of negligence, alleging the adult rector was not inside the residence hall and failed to take precautions to ensure the safety of residents under his care despite knowing about a party.
“This is a kid who never drank in high school” said attorney Peter Flowers of Illinois. “(Sean) was introduced to alcohol at Notre Dame. They encourage the kids to act like the dorms are fraternities, where you’ve got kids of legal age mixed in with underage kids and inadequate policies and procedures in place, creating an unreasonably dangerous environment.”
The university near South Bend does not have fraternities or sororities and requires students to live in a residence hall during their first three years at the school.
As a result of the accidental fall, Sean suffered a depressed skull fracture, brain hemorrhage and trauma to his spine that has left him unable to talk, walk or perform basic daily tasks including bathing and dressing without assistance, the lawsuit contends.
The suit is Sean Tennant et al. v. University of Notre Dame du Lac, 71C01-2007-CT-000254.