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- Smith v Delta Tau Delta: Fraternal Law Partners Files Amicus Brief on behalf of NPC Organizations
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Newsletter > September 2013 > "Smith v Delta Tau Delta: Fraternal Law Partners Files Amicus Brief on behalf of NPC Organizations"
Smith v Delta Tau Delta: Fraternal Law Partners Files Amicus Brief on behalf of NPC Organizations
Sean Calla, Manley Burke, email@example.com
Fraternal Law Partners filed an Amicus Brief with the Indiana Supreme Court on behalf of 23 women’s fraternal organizations in the Smith v. Delta Tau Delta hazing case.1 The case involves a wrongful death claim against Delta Tau Delta national fraternity, among others, after the alcohol-related death of a Delta Tau Delta pledge at Wabash College. Procedurally, the trial court granted Delta Tau Delta’s motion for summary judgment that (i) Delta Tau Delta did not assume a duty of care to the plaintiff and (ii) no agency relationship existed between Delta Tau Delta and the Wabash chapter. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed relying on evidence that Delta Tau Delta “promulgated rules and enforcement procedures focused on hazing and alcohol abuse”. Smith v. Delta Tau Delta, et al., 988 N.E.2d at 337. For more information regarding the Court of Appeal’s decision please see the article titled “Smith v. Delta Tau Delta” in the May 2013 issue of Fraternal Law.
Delta Tau Delta is now seeking transfer of the case to the Indiana Supreme Court. Fraternal Law Partners filed the Amicus Brief in support of Delta Tau Delta’s Petition for Transfer. As set forth in detail in the brief, the decision of the Court of Appeals breaks sharply from longstanding Indiana precedents defining the limits of assumption of duty and agency liability. At issue is the circumstance in which an organization may be held liable for the wrongful, tortious and criminal acts of its adult members. Until now, no Indiana court has ever held that by simply implementing rules, and enforcing those rules, that an organization somehow assumed liability for the actions of its members who violated those same rules. In fact, another panel of the Court of Appeals recently disavowed such a rule of law, writing that “we recognize the untenable situation that can be created when colleges and fraternities attempt to deal with potentially dangerous activities by promulgating rules, only to have the enactment and enforcement of those rules thrown back at them as an assumption of duty.” Yost v. Wabash College, et al., 976 N.E.2d 724, 745 (Ind.Ct.App. 2013) (vacated).
In filing its Amicus Brief, the arnici urge the Indiana Supreme Court to embrace longstanding Indiana precedent by reversing the decision of the Court of Appeals, while affirming that social clubs and other organizations may properly implement and enforce rules governing the behavior of their members. We will continue to monitor the proceedings in this case, as the outcome could significantly impact the risk management policies for national Greek organizations.
1 In addition to the NPC brief, both the National Interfratemity Conference and Theta Chi Fraternity filed Amicus Briefs as well.