Monday, December 26, 2011

Fight at Sorority Leads to Injuries and Plaintiff's Verdict

I am handling a number of lawsuits in Pittsburgh concerning negligent security be it improper security guard enforcement at a university or understaffed security measures at restaurants and bars. Because of that I have been doing a lot of research on various negligent security verdicts and settelements that have come down in Pennsylvania in the past couple years. The latest case I look at is John Graff v. Beta Nu Chapter of Alpha Sigma Tau, et al.

On Jan. 28, 2006, plaintiff Graff, 20, a student at a local University, was assaulted at a sorority mixer called "Bucket of Gin," which was hosted by the Beta Nu Chapter of Alpha Sigma Tao Sorority. Graff had arrived at the sorority shortly after the party was opened to the public at 12:00 a.m. While Graff was in the kitchen of the sorority, Janis began throwing limes at Graff's friend. Graff responded by asking Janis to stop but, after a while, Janis continued to throw the limes. When Graff approached Janis a second time, he was allegedly attacked by Janis, and three other individuals. During the attack Graff sustained a number of severe blows to his head.  Graff sued the sorority, and three individuals asserting assault and negligent security and claiming personal injuries.

Plaintiff's counsel contended that when the four men charged, they grabbed Graff's hair and kneed his face. Counsel also alleged that one man, who was a punter on the football team, kicked Graff in the face. At the same time, counsel asserted, another continued to punch Graff. While the fourth never physically touched Graff, he made no attempt to stop his friends from beating Graff mercilessly.

The defendants denied the allegations. Counsel for Janis argued that Graff threw a bottle at the defendants, which started the altercation. Counsel also asserted that there were inconsistencies between the parties' accounts of the incident, including allegations leveled at people who were not at the party.

Counsel for the sorority maintained that the defendants were all intoxicated and had been drinking before they entered the sorority house. The sorority maintained that it couldn't be held liable for negligent security since the fight was typical of an incident that occurs at college parties.

Graff suffered multiple facial fractures that required 6.5-hours of facial reconstructive surgery. As a result of the surgery, Graff had 44 screws and two plates in his face and still experienced numbness at the time of trial. Counsel also noted that Graff's jaw had to be wired shut for eight weeks. In addition he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and plaintiff's counsel argued that the psychological condition, which included nightmares, forced Graff to switch colleges.

Plaintiff sought damages for past and future pain and suffering, along with $57,746 in past medical bills.  Counsel for the defendants argued that Graff made a good recovery from the injuries.

The parties settled for $200,000 prior to trial. Three individual defendants each agreed to pay $30,000, Cherry settled for $20,000 and the Beta Nu Chapter of the Alpha Sigma Tao Sorority agreed to pay $110,000. Share this post :
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