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Newsletter > March 2017 > "New Lawsuit Filed"
New Lawsuit Filed
David Westol, Limberlost Consulting, Inc.
A lawsuit with two interesting aspects that involve a chapter of a men’s national fraternity has been filed in the U.S. Federal District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit, which was filed in January of 2017, lists John and Jeanette Hall as plaintiffs on behalf of their daughter, Karlie, who was a freshman at Millersville University in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in February of 2015. Karlie was involved in a relationship with Gregorio Orrostieta. Pursuant to the pleadings the relationship involved physical confrontations between the two young people. Orrostieta, who was not enrolled at Millersville University, visited Karlie on several occasions and stayed in her residence hall room. At least one physical assault occurred during the fall semester of 2014 with Ms. Hall as the victim.
In February of 2015 Orrostieta made another visit to stay with Ms. Hall. The two were allegedly invited to the chapter house of a men’s fraternity chapter at Millersville. Orrostieta and Hall allegedly paid $5 to attend the event and then were either provided with or purchased alcohol from chapter members. While at the party Orrostieta allegedly assaulted Ms. Hall by shoving her into and pinning her against a wall. Pursuant to the pleadings, no member of the chapter attempted to intervene nor did they contact the police or other emergency responders.
After returning to her residence hall room that night Ms. Hall was heard screaming for help. Millersville University police officers were called and found Ms. Hall dead. Orrostieta was prosecuted and convicted of Third Degree Murder under Pennsylvania law in May of 2016. He is serving a prison term of twenty to forty years.
Four undergraduate members of the fraternity chapter have been named in the lawsuit along with five “John Does” who are also referenced as undergraduate members of the chapter and the national organization. The basis for the lawsuit against the individual members and the national organization includes the allegation that the men were negligent by not intervening or taking action after witnessing the physical assault of Ms. Hall in the chapter house; that the men should be held to the higher standard of care for a business because they treated Orrostieta and Hall (who were minors) as business invitees; and that the men sold alcohol without a license and to a “visibly intoxicated minor”.
While pleadings are not proof and should not be considered same for purposes of this article, this lawsuit serves as yet another reminder to undergraduates who host events that they should never sell alcohol or operate as a bar or tavern might function.
The second and more intriguing aspect of this case—do chapters owe a duty to guests to intervene when, as occurred in this case, a guest is assaulted?