The parents of Matthew Crozier, a former John Carroll University student who died in January 2011 following a fatal fall at Penn’s Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity house, received more than $3 million in a wrongful death settlement.
Phi Kappa Sigma International Fraternity and the independent housing corporation of Penn’s former Alpha chapter of PKS — commonly called “Skulls” — collectively agreed to pay $3 million. Suds Beer Store, which allegedly sold alcohol to Crozier before his death while he was still underage — paid $375,000.
Vice President for University Communications Stephen MacCarthy confirmed that the University — the third party implicated in the lawsuit — also agreed to terms with the family’s attorneys, but said that the details of the settlement are confidential. He declined to comment further.
Ara Avrigian, an attorney who represented the Croziers, also declined to comment on the details of the settlement with the University.
The settlement marks the end of a tumultuous semester for Skulls.
All of the brothers were initially scheduled to be evicted from the Skulls house at 3539 Locust Walk at the end of the semester. That eviction date, however, was later moved up to right before Thanksgiving break, PKS Grand Alpha Douglas Opicka confirmed.
Although the house is currently vacant, Opicka said the alumni housing corporation is actively working toward finding a sorority to rent it out until Skulls is able to re-colonize on campus a few years down the road.
He hopes the corporation will be able to start renting out the house to a sorority next school year.
Had the Crozier family not settled, the case was scheduled to go to trial early next year.
“If the case had gone to trial, a jury would have been repulsed by the multitude of failures by Phi Kappa Sigma and the other defendants,” said Robert Mongeluzzi, who also represented the Croziers. “Combined, their negligence clearly led to the death of an extraordinary young man with the brightest of futures.”
The lawsuit leading to the settlement alleged that Skulls, despite several warnings from the University, had ignored instructions to upgrade the railing over which Crozier fell before his death.
The Croziers’ attorneys had submitted several exhibits and expert reports — including a 2004 study by Blackney Hayes Architects on the state and infrastructure of all of the University’s Greek houses — to bolster their case.
“We think it was a very good and fair settlement,” Avrigian said. “Because of this case and litigation, we think something similar to this is more unlikely to happen again to a student somewhere else.”
Avrigian said that, had all of the parties been unable to reach a settlement, the plaintiffs would have been prepared to move forward with a jury trial come January. Over the past year, several current and former Skulls brothers who had attended the New Year’s Eve party at which Crozier fell were deposed in anticipation of this.
Avrigian added that the $3 million payout by Skulls represented the full extent of PKS’ insurance coverage.
“For these kinds of cases historically, you never want to see them get put in front of a jury,” PKS Grand Alpha Douglas Opicka said of why the fraternity agreed to settle.
Now that the lawsuit has been closed, Avrigian said the Crozier family is ready to move forward with its life outside the case.
“I think they were pleased with the settlement,” he said. “Money wasn’t their primary goal with all of this litigation — they wanted to figure out what happened, why it happened, and I think in most respects we met those objectives.”Comments powered by Disqus
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