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Newsletter > September 2019 > "Are Membership Dues and Tuition Considered Consumer Merchandise?"
Are Membership Dues and Tuition Considered Consumer Merchandise?
Ilana L. Linder, Manley Burke LPA, firstname.lastname@example.org
The families of two of the five Truman State University (TSU) students who committed suicide have filed a lawsuit against the University, the Alpha Kappa Lambda (AKL) fraternity, and Brandon Grossheim, a former student and fraternity house manager at the time of the deaths. 
The two students, who were both members of AKL and had made numerous indications of their suicidal tendencies to others, were each found dead from hanging inside their fraternity house. Grossheim is alleged to have provided “step by step” directions to the two students on how to “deal with things like depression.” This advice included information on how to commit suicide, the Complaint states. Additionally, Grossheim exhibited some unusual behaviors, including wearing one of the deceased students’ clothes and dating the deceased’s girlfriend following his death.
The Complaint asserts numerous complaints against the Defendants. These include negligence/premises liability and a wrongful death claim against the University and national Fraternity, as well as wrongful death against Grossheim as an individual. These claims assert that both the fraternity and school owed the students (and their families) a duty of care to protect them from known harm, which was breached when no intervention or supervision was made to prevent the students from being around Grossheim and/or harming themselves.
Interestingly, claims of negligent misrepresentation claim and a violation of the Missouri Merchandise Practices Act are also asserted against the fraternity and University. Here, the fact that the students and their families purchased “consumer merchandise,” consisting of a membership in AKL and college tuition, is juxtaposed with the failure of the two entities to provide them with the benefits that were expected in exchange for such purchases. Specifically, the Complaint states that the Plaintiffs did not receive the “resources to stay healthy, be safe, and feel well,” or “support or a safe environment” in exchange for their membership dues and/or tuition.
Both the University and AKL have commented that they each plan to defend against these assertions. Fraternal Law Partners will of course keep its readers appraised of this case as it develops.
 Complaint, Bottorff-Arey v. Truman St. Univ. Found., 19AR-CV00792 (Cir. Ct. Mo. July 31, 2019).