UI responds in frat-house fall lawsuit
MOSCOW, Idaho — A University of Idaho attorney says the school can’t control what students do on private property outside of school hours, and so it can’t be held liable for injuries a 19-year-old sophomore sustained when she fell out of a fraternity window after a party.
Lewiston attorney Theodore Creason presented the school’s arguments in 2nd District Court on Wednesday, asking Judge Michael Griffin to throw out a lawsuit from former student Amanda Andaverde and her parents.
Andaverde broke several bones and was seriously injured in 2009 when she rolled off a bed at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house and fell out of a window, striking the concrete almost 30 feet below. Though she was underage, Andaverde had been drinking and should have been prevented from doing so by older fraternity and sorority members, the lawsuit states.
Andaverde filed the suit against the university, Idaho State Board of Education, Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and others nearly two years after the fall, contending in part that school officials regulate fraternities and sororities, knew about alcohol misuse, should have known dangerous conditions existed and failed to act.
But Creason said the school doesn’t own the fraternity building where Andaverde was injured, and that it doesn’t have the right to inspect private property.
The UI had no involvement with the activities at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house that night, he said.
“Ms. Andaverde was acting as an adult individual, privately in pursuit of her own social activities,” he said. “The university had nothing to do with it, nor did it assume duty to take care of her on the night of her tragic accident.”
Andaverde’s attorney, Warren Dowdle of Boise, said the university shouldn’t be excused from the lawsuit because it claims to oversee the fraternity and sorority system.
“When the university is actively almost encouraging students to participate in Greek living, that their website actively and strongly advocates that society and, I believe, when they’re saying they’re an overseer, there may be more of a duty to go in and make sure that there are safety measures,” Dowdle said.
The judge took the matter under advisement and will issue a written ruling at a later date.
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