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Newsletter > November 2012 > "Tragedy at University of Northern Colorado: Complaint Filed Against Delta Tau Delta"
Tragedy at University of Northern Colorado: Complaint Filed Against Delta Tau Delta
Tim Burke, Chris Hoskins, Manley Burke
An eighteen-year-old University of Northern Colorado freshman, Ross Higuchi, sustained fatal injuries from a fall during a fraternity party in 2011. After participating in rush activities for Delta Tau Delta (“DTD”), Higuchi received an invitation to join its Theta Omicron Chapter (“Chapter”). Days later, Higuchi and fellow pledges participated in a “pinning ceremony.” The Plaintiffs claim that the ceremony provided pledges with alcohol and was followed by a party at the Chapter house. Further, the suit alleges that the pledges and DTD members participated in assortment of drinking activities, including “drinking races” and “family time” drinking.
Higuchi is alleged to have engaged in erratic behavior, which was noticed by others during the party. It is claimed that DTD members admitted that Higuchi was visibly intoxicated and “needed to be controlled.” Members witnessed Higuchi making incoherent statements, such as “I am the kind of the pirates,” and “I am going to inherit billions of dollars.” Nevertheless, the party continued, and, as claimed in the complaint, “nobody took action to get Ross out of a position of peril by taking control of him.” Specifically, it is contended that Tyler Ames—then chapter President, whose position holds “senior responsibility” in overseeing crisis management— did nothing to assist Higuchi. At 1:15 a.m., Ross Higuchi “plunged” from the second-floor balcony of the DTD house. The 18-year-old was taken to the hospital and ultimately succumbed to his injuries three days later.
A DTD member, Kyle Edward Riley, was criminally convicted for providing alcohol to a minor. Riley was ordered to serve two years on supervised probation. Scott Higuchi, Ross’s father, recently filed a complaint in the Boulder County District Court on behalf of his son’s estate against Delta Tau Delta National Fraternity (“DTD National”), the Chapter, and several individual members of the Chapter.
Among other claims, the Plaintiff asserted negligence and reckless homicide causes of action against DTD National. Specifically, the Plaintiff contends that DTD National retained and appointed untrained, unpaid college students to oversee crisis management responsibilities. Coupled with the fact that DTD National was aware, or should have been aware, of the presence and inherent risk of alcohol at pledge parties, the Plaintiff contends that the Defendants acted recklessly. This tragedy, it is argued, could have been prevented if DTD National enforced reasonable policy measures.
Further, the Plaintiff contends that the actions of DTD members constituted hazing, as proscribed by C.R.S. § 18-9-124. The Plaintiff contends that the hazing occurred when the pledges were compelled to consume alcohol under duress. The Plaintiff, in an additional claim for relief, contends that DTD National violated the hazing statute, as the individuals were “members and/or agents of [DTD National] and in furtherance of [DTD National’s] business.”
The Plaintiff also sets forth a negligence claim against all named Defendants, claiming that the Defendants had a duty to reasonably care for Higuchi. The complaint states that this duty was breached when DTD failed to procure appropriate medical care to Higuchi, delayed in calling 911, and subjected the victim to unqualified treatment. The Plaintiff asserts that Higuchi, out of necessity, relied upon the Defendants, but the action and inaction of the members ultimately placed Higuchi in a worse place than he would have been if proper care was taken.
Plaintiff seeks unspecified pain and suffering damages for Ross Higuchi, as a result of “experienc[ing] conscious pain and suffering for a period of days as he struggled to stay alive.” Additionally, Ross’s parents seek unspecified damages for emotional distress. This complaint was recently filed. Thus, no answers have been filed, and no trial date is set.
1 Riley and Ames were named as Defendants in the civil complaint.
2 Higuchi v. Delta Tau Delta Fraternity (complaint filed Oct. 12, 2012).