Injured Police Officer Files Suit
Against Institute, Beta Theta PiBy Douglas E. Heimburger
The Boston University police officer who was severely injured last summer while avoiding bottles thrown from the roof of Beta Theta Pi has filed suit against the Institute and others.
The suit, filed by BU officer James Barry and his wife Dorothy on April 14, names the national Beta Theta Pi, the local alumni corporation Beta Upsilon Association and its president, Michael A. Johnson ’80, MIT, and current MIT students James B. Williams ’99, Philip J. LaFond G, Russell Speiler ’00, Robert N. Tunick ’99 and Steven J. Lefkowitz ’00 as defendants.
LaFond, Speiler, Tunick, and Lefkowitz are named as representatives of the BTP chapter. The chapter itself, as an unincorporated association, was not named.
The suit alleges that all the defendants “owed a duty of reasonable care to those on the premises” including that alcohol laws were observed by all those on the premises. Additionally, the suit alleges that the defendants did not ensure that rules and regulations for social events were upheld.
The suit also alleges that Johnson, BTP national, the alumni chapter, and MIT committed willful, wanton, and reckless conduct by failing to perform duties “in light of the defendants’ knowledge of the history of criminal and/or serious incidents involving MIT fraternities arising from alcohol consumption and lack of supervision.”
Williams is named for reckless conduct for purchasing alcohol for underage drinkers.
Barry was allegedly injured July 19 after he responded to a complaint on the premises. While climbing to the roofdeck, he was pelted by bottles, according to the BU police report.
In avoiding the bottles, Barry suffered a herniated disc in his back. According to the suit, he “continues to suffer neck, shoulder and arm pain and has been unable to return to work.”
After the incident, the Boston Licensing Board banned alcohol on the premises until September, and also prohibited the fraternity from housing summer boarders this summer.
Tunick, BTP’s president at the time of the incident, said before the board that “no Betas were present; no Betas purchased or consumed alcohol” at the party.
However, Williams was charged by the police with purchasing a keg consumed by underage summer residents at the party. His trial adjourned without a finding in November.
Suit seeks unspecified damages
Under Massachusetts Law, attorneys in personal injury cases are not allowed to specify an amount to the jury. The complaint notes a worker’s compensation lien of $27,176.
However, that lien is “not even a fraction of what his damages [are]” and was used solely to place the trial in superior court, said Jeffrey M. Sankey, an attorney with Johnson, Hassett and Hanley who is representing the Barry family.
“It’s fairly clear that Mr. Barry was significantly injured. This lawsuit is his opportunity to have his case heard and for him to be compensated for his losses,” Sankey said.
Thomas R. Henneberry, director of Insurance and Legal Affairs, declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.
Tom Alver, risk management chair for the national Beta Theta Pi fraternity, noted that the fraternity does have a risk management policy concerning events such as the party. He declined to comment on the litigation.
David W. Weaver ’99, the current president of the BTP chapter, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Civil trials in Massachusetts generally move very slowly. “If it went to trial within two years ... it would be fast,” Sankey said.
While all of the defendants have been served with the case, none have as of yet responded to Sankey.