Doug Fierberg Comments on Dangers of Fraternities in the Wake of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity Pledge Maxwell Greuver’s Tragic Death

LSU Freshman and Phi Delta Theta fraternity pledge Maxwell Gruver died Thursday after possible fraternity hazing.

A preliminary autopsy found that Gruver had a “highly elevated blood alcohol level plus the presence of THC in the urine,” said a statement released Friday by the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office.

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Louisiana State University Police are investigating a LSU students death as a possible fraternity hazing incident, at an on campus fraternity house, Phi Delta Theta. Maxwell Raymond Gruver, an 18-year-old LSU freshman from Roswell, Ga., died Thursday after he was taken to a Baton Rouge hospital to be treated for an unspecified “medical emergency,” said university spokesman Ernie Ballard. Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP

Doug Fierberg – a nationally acclaimed wrongful death attorney representing families who have sued universities, national fraternities and local chapter members for hazing and alcohol-related school deaths tells ABC News:

“Universities and fraternities are not taking the steps – and this goes back decades – to prevent these problems and reform their institutions that are fundamentally dangerous.”

Fierberg recently settled a lawsuit against Phi Delta Theta on behalf of a University of Chicago pledge and was featured on CNN to discuss the perils of fraternity hazing violence and death:

“The dangers of fraternities are not myths. They are reality. The failure by universities to tell the truth about the risks facing students in fraternities specifically related to hazing misuse and abuse of alcohol and other misconduct is the new battleground.” Fierberg tells CNN. “It needs to be changed nationally, because parents and students are entitled to timely and accurate information about the risks they face.  And universities have no basis, morally or legally, to withhold that information from the university community.”

Fierberg said universities violate their duties to students and parents when they create websites about Greek life and only include feel-good information, instead of an accurate and complete picture:

“[Universities] won’t give you the full information because it will confirm that what you believe is right. Of course you have a zero tolerance policy. [Hazing is] illegal. … But why wouldn’t you tell parents it’s still going on?”

Having represented victims of similar tragedies associated with fraternities, our  our hope is that the Gruver family finds answers related to how this terrible loss transpired.

Our thoughts are with Maxwell’s family and community during this extremely difficult time.

Doug Fierberg Comments on Criminal Charges Arising From Fraternity Hazing Death of Timothy Piazza at Penn State

Beta Theta Pi Fraternity pledge dies after hazing ritual

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Beta Theta Pi fraternity house at Penn State University. Google Maps

18 Penn State students are facing criminal charges – eight for involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and hazing, among other charges; four for reckless endangerment and hazing among other charges; and six for evidence tampering –  due to their involvement in the fraternity hazing death of Penn State University Sophomore, Timothy Piazza.

Douglas Fierberg – a national acclaimed wrongful death attorney representing families who have sued universities, national fraternities and local chapter members for hazing and alcohol-related student deaths – tells the New York Times:

“The central problem is that in a fraternity house, kids, most of whom cannot legally drink, are in charge of getting and serving alcohol.”

Fierberg is lead attorney for the family of Michael Deng, the Baruch College student who died as a result of a hazing ritual known to Pi Delta Psi brothers as “the gauntlet” or “glass ceiling”. The Deng’s brought a wrongful death suit against the fraternity and several of its members – 37 of whom now face a range of criminal charges for their involvement in Deng’s death, including third degree murder, assault, hindering apprehension and hazing.

Having represented victims of similar tragedies associated with fraternities, our hope is that the Beta Theta Pi members involved in Timothy Piazza’s death are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group offer our deepest condolences to the Piazza family during this unfathomably difficult time.

EX-MLB Player Chad Curtis’ Admission He Kissed Student Admissible at Civil Trial

The three former student-athletes sexually assaulted by Curtis are suing the ex-MLB player and Lakewood Public Schools.

Curtis, who played for the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees during his 10 year MLB career, is serving seven to fifteen years in prison on six sexual assault convictions.

As the judge has already found Curtis liable for battery against the plaintiffs, the jury trial, scheduled for May 30 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, will determine damages. 

The jury will also hear the plaintiffs’ claim against Curtis for intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, and claims against the school district and board of education for Title IX violations for teacher-to-student harassment. The plaintiffs also alleged the school district failed to properly train staff.

Title IX and K-12 sexual assault victims attorney, Monica Beck of The Fierberg National Law Group and School Violence Law, represents the young women. While, Curtis, who – against the judge’s recommendation – will act as his own attorney. 

More on Curtis’ admission, the judge’s decision, and the upcoming jury trial, as reported by reporter, John Agar:

Former student-athletes suing ex-MLB player Chad Curtis and Lakewood Public Schools can present at trial evidence of a school board member’s support for Curtis.

Curtis told Brian Potter, then a member of the school board, that he kissed one of the students who accused him of sexual assault. Potter told no authorities about their conversation.

A jury trial before U.S. District Judge Janet Neff is scheduled for May 30 in Grand Rapids.

The school district sought to exclude Potter’s testimony because “boards of education speak only through their minutes.”

Chad Curtis, Curtis, Lakewood Public Schools, Lakewood High School, Title IX, sexual assault, k-12 sexual assault, student sexual assault, student sexual abuse, high school sexual assault, high school sexual abuse

Former Major League Baseball player Chad Curtis walks into the courtroom during a re-sentencing meeting on Thursday, June 30, 2016 inside the Barry County Circuit Court in Hastings, Michigan. Tom Brenner /

Attorneys for the young women want to present the evidence “not to show that the Lakewood School Board, as a body, performed these actions, but the highest-level administrators of the school publicly did so.”

The school district strongly condemned Potter for keeping Curtis’ admission secret before and after Curtis’ criminal trial for sexually assaulting three of the four plaintiffs.

Potter also showed support in notes to Curtis and his wife, and once said he sat on Curtis’ side of the courtroom rather than with the “accusers.”

Potter resigned shortly after he admitted in a deposition that Curtis told him of his feelings for a student-athlete and that Curtis had kissed her.

On April 28, 2012, a day after police told the schools about Curtis’ suspected abuse of student-athletes, Potter wrote to Curtis: “You have lived and continue to live a righteousness (sic) life that no one, or no words can take way.”

Days later, Curtis told Potter that he had kissed one of the girls at the high school, had been “inappropriate” and “just liked everything about her.”

Until he was deposed in late 2015, Potter had told only his wife and a close friend about the conversation, attorneys for the plaintiffs say.

He had also tried to keep the student-athletes from going forward with the criminal case. He met with one of the fathers and said “no good can come out of a trial,” filings by the plaintiffs show.

Potter provided a character reference letter in October 2013 when Curtis was sentenced. Another school board member, Gary Foltz, wrote a letter on Curtis’ behalf, too.

Meanwhile, the judge denied Lakewood’s request that “all evidence and testimony about alleged student-to-student sexual or sex-based harassment” be excluded.

She also rejected a motion by the plaintiffs to exclude evidence or arguments about “prior bad acts” or character evidence about the plaintiffs or their parents who are all expected to testify.

Based on questioning during depositions, the plaintiffs think the defense will try to impeach the character of the student-athletes and parents.

The judge could revisit the ruling based on testimony at trial.


Rolling Stone & The Fierberg National Law Group Take Aim at Frat’s Reputation in VA Defamation Suit

The Fierberg National Law Group Is Part of The Legal Team Representing Rolling Stone Magazine in Defamation Lawsuit Brought By Phi Kappa Psi Fraternities.

A synopsis of The Fierberg National Law Group‘s recent briefing on behalf of Rolling Stone – as reported by Ashley Cullins of The Hollywood Reporter – reads:

Rolling Stone argues records involving sexual assault at nationwide Phi Kappa Psi fraternities are paramount to its defamation fight against the Virginia Alpha Chapter over its since-redacted story of the gang rape of a University of Virginia student named “Jackie” that purportedly occurred at its campus frat house. And while the magazine knocked out a defamation suit from a handful of fraternity brothers, this is but the first round of a $25 million fight with the chapter itself. 

PKP has filed motions to quash subpoenas for documents regarding “claims, investigations, risk assessments, and disciplinary actions relating to incidents of sexual misconduct, alcohol abuse, and/or fraternity hazing” that involve PKP as a whole and other local chapters. Rolling Stone argues the documents are relevant because the national organization’s brand and the local chapter’s reputation are “inextricably intertwined.” 

“If other chapters of PKP nationwide have been disciplined and/or suspended in response to incidents of sexual assault and hazing, those incidents affect the value of the reputation that goes along with being recognized in the world as a ‘Phi Kappa Psi brother’ and, accordingly, are relevant to the damages claimed by VAC,” writes attorney Robert Hall.

In its motion to quash, PKP argues that VAC is a separate entity from the national organization and any harm to its reputation and membership are specific to the local chapter. “In regards to PKP and the Other Chapters, the information requested is not relevant to the litigation nor is it likely to lead to admissible evidence,” writes attorney Dirk McClanahan. “For example, assuming arguendo there was a hazing or sexual misconduct incident in Ames, Iowa, that incident would not prove or disprove the truth of an article that wrongly accused a party of a detailed and specific gang-rape allegation in Charlottesville, VA.” Alternatively, the organization asked the court to designate any materials produced as in camera only, attorney’s eyes only or confidential. 

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Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, Virginia Alpha Chapter house at The University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA.  Jay Paul / Getty Images

The magazine’s lawyers pulled no punches in the responding memo filed March 27, indicating the fraternity chose not to speak up before the story ran. 

“While numerous criticisms have been leveled at Rolling Stone, entirely missing from that discourse, until now, are the conscious decisions by VAC, guided by multiple lawyers, public relations experts, and national and alumni advisors to assume the risk of remaining largely silent and not sharing with Rolling Stone…the factual discrepancies in Jackie’s story of which they were aware before and immediately after the Article was published,” writes Hall. “For had they done so, the Article never would have been published.”

Rolling Stone argues that for at least two months before its article was published, both the local chapter and national organization were “regularly advised” by university staff regarding the allegations.

“The initial failure by VAC and PKP to instantly and categorically deny the allegations is evidence that they believed, like multiple trained personnel at UVA, that these extreme allegations of sexual violence and wrongdoing at a VAC event were plausible,” writes Hall.

Further, the magazine argues that the fraternity had “the knowledge, power, choice and wealth of opportunity to mitigate or avoid the harm it allegedly suffered from the Article,” and the motivation for the lawsuit is money.

“The award sought would underwrite VAC’s operations for some 160 years, or until approximately the year 2177,” writes Hall. “This is a particularly egregious demand given that VAC did not lose any members post-publication.” 

The magazine also argues that PKP failed to show that the records sought warrant in camera only or attorney’s eyes only protection. It does not object to a confidential designation under a previously stipulated protective order.

A hearing on the matter is set for Wednesday afternoon in Charlottesville Circuit Court. Trial is currently scheduled to begin Oct. 23.

Rolling Stone also is appealing a highly controversial ruling in the defamation suit brought by then-UVA associate dean Nicole Eramo. The court found story itself wasn’t defamatory, but rather the magazine defamed the dean when it appended the original story with a retraction. Many in the legal industry and the press have warned that the ruling, if it stands, will likely chill media apologies.

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    More than 20 years ago, Doug Fierberg was the first lawyer to exclusively represent victims of school violence nationwide. As his legal team has grown, we have always believed that giving back is essential. Thus, our lawyers – for no fee - have compelled wrongdoers to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation to non-profit organizations whose missions are to eliminate hazing, sexual assault, binge drinking, and other violence from schools.

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