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Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Victim seeking millions from frat

The Sigma Chi fraternity house, 221 Langdon St., is the alleged location of a sexual assault last October.[/media-credit]
The student suing the University of Wisconsin Sigma Chi fraternity, national headquarters and insurers for an alleged rape in the fall of 2008 is seeking more than $10 million in damages, according to documents filed recently in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

The plaintiff, a Milwaukee woman identified as “Jane Doe,” filed the civil suit last July. The suit seeks damages for injuries sustained after she was allegedly drugged and raped multiple times at the Sigma Chi house the night of Oct. 4 or in the early morning of Oct. 5, 2008.

Filed in late March, the document says the woman is claiming $2,321.47 to pay for medical bills and $10 million to cover past and future physical and emotional injuries.


The document also contains a list of witnesses who, unless a pending motion to dismiss the case is approved later this year, could be called to testify when trial proceedings begin in 2011. Witnesses include medical experts, UW students, members of Chancellor Biddy Martin‘s office, Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association, and at least one member of Sigma Chi, among others.

In support of potential testimonies by medical officials, other documents detail physical and emotional pain sustained by the plaintiff. Meriter Hospital records detail tests and treatments administered Oct. 5, including a sexual assault nurse exam.

The records indicate serious damage was found during a pelvic exam and the student also sustained injuries to her right foot and face.

Another document, submitted by psychologist Marc Ackerman, includes findings from a psychological examination completed in May 2009. In the document, Ackerman says the student had been suffering academically, socially and emotionally since the rape. Tests suggested she may have been suffering from major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and somatization disorder.

However, the defendants are currently seeking to dismiss the case, with one motion filed March 15 stating the plaintiff’s failure to disclose an insurer or other party that paid for medical care limits the defendants’ abilities to collect information and creates other problems for the judicial process.

However, the plaintiff could file an updated complaint to address these concerns, as was done in an amended complaint after the defendants filed a motion objecting to the plaintiff’s charge that the fraternity’s owners violated Wisconsin safe place statutes by not providing a safe space for guests.

The plaintiff filed a second amended complaint in early March that makes another series of changes to the suit. The original complaint provides examples of a variety of incidents at other Sigma Chi chapters, including several instances of sexual assault.

The latest complaint still names other chapters, but focuses more clearly on alleging the defendants should have specifically made a greater effort to protect female visitors from sexual abuse and other violations of chapter, city and state laws due to knowledge of past incidents at other chapter houses.

It also adds it was previously known there were practices of alcohol abuse at Sigma Chi, putting guests at risk.

As in the first two complaints, the defendants denied the plaintiff’s charges, demanding a dismissal of the second amended complaint.

Both parties are also undergoing collection of information for the suit. Among the items plaintiff attorney Robert Elliott of Milwaukee wants the defendants to release is a document produced by Sigma Chi headquarters titled “The Ritual.” Elliott believes a potentially similar document he obtained via the Internet indicates the national headquarters exercise extreme control over individual chapters.

The amount of control headquarters exerts over the UW chapter has emerged as a major issue in the suit, though headquarters has consistently denied any serious control of or responsibility for actions within individual houses.

“However, even a cursory reading of ‘The Ritual’ demonstrates that the [national headquarters] exercises rigid control over its chapters…,” Elliott said in an affidavit filed March 10.

Sigma Chi attorney Marie Stanton said the defendants will file a reply by Friday.

American Family Mutual Insurance Company was dismissed as a defendant Monday after a Milwaukee judge agreed their insurance policies covering Sigma Chi do not apply to the suit. Milwaukee attorney James Murray said another defendant, Lloyd’s of London, would most likely cover the fraternity.

The student and Elliott have previously stated they will not speak to the media concerning the suit.

A scheduling order filed in December names Nov. 1 as the deadline for the completion of information collection, excluding out of court testimonies.

A final pretrial conference will be held April 1, 2011, when a trial date, if required, will be scheduled. The defendants and plaintiff have demanded trial by a 12-person jury.

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