In 2010, Megan Helal, a nineteen year old college student in Texas, went with her boyfriend to his fraternity’s party at a local bar. After consuming 10-17 alcoholic beverages, Megan lost consciousness and died at the hospital. Her parents have now filed suit against the fraternity, Sigma Chi, alleging negligence and over-serving of alcohol and seeking $50,000 for medical and burial expenses. They contend that Megan’s death was the result of binge drinking facilitated by the fraternity at its event.
To establish a similar negligence claim in Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia personal injury attorney needs to provide evidence that: (1) the fraternity owed the victim a duty to make sure she was not over-served alcohol; (2) that the fraternity breached its duty; (3) that there is a causal connection between the fraternity’s failure and the resulting injuries; and (4) that the victim sustained actual loss or damage. Kenner v. Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., 808 A.2d 178 (Pa. Super. 2002). Pennsylvania courts have not addressed this specific issue, but the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has determined that a national governing body of a fraternity has no duty to monitor the activities of its individual chapters. Alumni Ass’n v. Sullivan. However, it is plausible that a bar, which serves alcohol to university students, and an individual chapter of a fraternity, who planned the event, may be considered social hosts for purposes of establishing a duty of care to event attendees. Individuals who have received injuries during the course of an event held by a university fraternity or sorority should seek advice from The Pearce Law Firm.