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Reply Date Delayed In Richard Guy Suit

By Keith J. Winstein


MIT’s response to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Richard A. Guy Jr. ’99 has been delayed a third time by the agreement of the parties to the case.

“The whole thing has basically been in a holding pattern,” said Daryl J. Lapp, a partner at Palmer & Dodge in Boston, who is representing MIT in the case.

The agreement delays the deadline for MIT’s response until May 21. The response had originally been required by last October.

The parents’ lawsuit followed Guy’s death by asphyxiation in 1999 due to excessive nitrous oxide inhalation and asserts that MIT should be held partly responsible. However, the parents have not yet made a public statement explaining their expectations for the lawsuit.

“There’s no change from the last status, which is that the parties are in the process of exchanging information, and that’s all that’s happening,” he said.

The Guys’ attorneys did not return calls seeking comment.

Guys’ aim in lawsuit not yet clear

Guy died from asphyxiation as a result of nitrous oxide intoxication in August 1999.

His parents, Richard A. Guy Sr. and Janet V. Guy, both of Mission Viejo, Calif., sued MIT one day before the three-year statute of limitations was to expire in 2002, but have declined to speak publicly about the lawsuit or to request a particular amount of damages.

In this respect, they differ from the parents of the late Elizabeth H. Shin ’02, who have hired a public relations firm and received national attention for an ongoing $27 million wrongful death lawsuit that seeks to hold MIT and several of its doctors and employees accountable for Shin’s April 2000 suicide.

The Guys’ complaint asserts that MIT is partly responsible for Guy’s death, as “MIT knew or should have known ... that drug use was ongoing” at East Campus, where Guy lived.

The complaint cites “the appearance of the 5th floor, where the walls and ceilings of part of the 5th floor were painted black and light bulbs painted pink and purple” as evidence of drug use on Fifth East. And MIT “knew or should have known that [East Campus residents] abused nitrous oxide within the dormitory and kept a canister of nitrous oxide, sometimes referred to as ‘the dorm bottle,’” the complaint says.

Guy, Shin only student death suits

The lawsuits filed by the Guys and Shins are the only known wrongful death claims against MIT from student deaths in recent history.

Other high-profile student deaths, such as that of freshmen Scott S. Krueger in 1997 and Julia M. Carpenter ’03 in 2001, were responsible for sweeping change in MIT’s residence system and a review of MIT’s harassment procedures, but did not result in lawsuits against MIT.