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Newsletter > July 2020 > "Lawsuit Over Max Gruver’s Death Will Continue Against LSU"
Lawsuit Over Max Gruver’s Death Will Continue Against LSU
Tim Burke, Fraternal Law Partners, firstname.lastname@example.org
The civil lawsuit filed by the family of Max Gruvercontinues on. Gruver died in a hazing incident in the Phi Delta Theta house at Louisiana State University (LSU). Among other defendants, the Gruver family named LSU as a defendant alleging violations of Title IX and state law. It is claimed that LSU violated Title IX because the school discriminated against male students by policing hazing in fraternities more leniently than hazing in sororities. LSU sought to have the case dismissed by the federal District Court—the trial court—and lost. LSU appealed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the University was entitled to immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states, or instrumentalities of the state, like LSU, in federal court. However, states may lose the protection of the Eleventh Amendment when they accept federal funds.
In May of this year, LSU lost again when the Court of Appeals ruled it did not have immunity.There was no question that LSU receives federal dollars tied to Title IX, but LSU attempted to convince the Court that it was coerced to accept those funds. LSU went on to argue that Congress cannot surprise states with post-acceptance conditions. The Court gave little credit to either argument, especially given past precedent in other decisions by the Court. As noted in the decision, the law LSU sought to challenge “has been on the books for over thirty years, all the while LSU has continued to accept federal funding.”The Court of Appeals specifically noted that the threat of the loss of federal funds under Title IX was not “gun to the head” coercion.
LSU will now go back to the trial court to deal with the merits of the Gruver’s claim that because LSU did not treat fraternities found to engage in hazing as harshly as it treated sororities, LSU is responsible for Max Gruver’s death.
Gruver v. La. Bd. of Supervisors for La. St. Univ. Agric. & Mech. Coll., 959 F.3d 178 (5th Cir. 2020).
Id. at 184.
Note: Phi Delta Theta, which had been named as a Defendant in the Gruver lawsuit, is no longer a party in the case. The fraternity is now partnering with the Max Gruver Foundation in its efforts to end hazing. More about the partnership can be found here: https://www.phideltatheta.org/2020/01/the-max-gruver-foundation-and-phi-delta-theta-fraternity-announce-partnership-to-prevent-hazing/#:~:text=In%20our%20continual%20effort%20to,memory%20of%20Max%20and%20to.