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Guy Family and MIT Settle Lawsuit, Plan New Memorial Fund

By Kelley Rivoire
EDITOR IN CHIEF

The family of Richard A. Guy Jr. ’99 has settled its wrongful death lawsuit against MIT outside of court, establishing the Rick Guy Fund to sponsor students in pre-orientation programs.

Guy died in 1999 of asphyxiation by nitrous oxide inhalation in the East Campus dormitory. His parents, Richard A. Guy Sr. and Janet V. Guy claimed in their lawsuit, filed in 2002, that MIT should have known about drug use at the dormitory, in particular on the fifth floor of the east parallel; MIT denied the allegations in a response filed in 2003.

MIT plans to hold a dedication ceremony, which is still being scheduled, for the Fund, said Denise Brehm, senior communications officer of the MIT News Office.

The settlement will establish the Rick Guy Fund to provide a minimum of 10 years of funding for at least five incoming freshmen to attend pre-orientation programs, Brehm said. Establishing the fund will make “something good come out of [the family’s] experience,” she said. Brehm did not know if the program would start this fall because the “pre-orientation programs are already getting their enrollments going” for this year.

Richard D. Glovsky, a lawyer for the Guy family, declined to comment, but released a statement from the family that the settlement has “resolved our concerns” and “we are pleased that the memory of our son, Rick Guy, will be memorialized.”

Senior Legal Counsel Jamie Lewis Keith and Daryl Lapp, MIT’s attorney in the lawsuit, did not return multiple requests for comment. MIT News Office spokesperson Patti Richards said MIT has no official comment at this time, beyond a statement that appears on page 13. Julie B. Norman, associate dean of academic resources and programming, whose office administers the pre-orientation programs, and Robert M. Randolph, senior associate dean for students, were not aware of the settlement as of last week.

The Guys’ 2002 complaint stated that “although Richard was not blameless in this tragedy,” MIT’s lack of dormitory supervision and poor coordination among Health Services, psychiatric staff and others were the “real and proximate causes of Richard’s untimely death.”

MIT admitted in a response to the suit that Guy had “engaged in experimental drug use and had sought treatment and counseling from MIT’s medical and health service staff for this problem.” The complaint alleged that the canister of nitrous oxide inhaled by Guy was kept inside the dormitory and was referred to as the “dorm bottle.”

MIT convened a mental health task force on problems with psychiatric care at MIT Medical in 2000, following the suicide of Elizabeth H. Shin ’02, and has since made progress in addressing the task force’s concerns.

The statutory cap on damages that MIT, as a charitable corporation, could have been required to pay in the wrongful death suit was $20,000, a limit the Guys made no attempt to circumvent. After agreeing to the settlement, the attorneys of both the Guys and MIT signed a statement dismissing the suit dated June 16.

In 2000, MIT paid $6 million to the family Scott S. Krueger ’01, who died in 1997 of alcohol poisoning after excessive drinking at an event at his fraternity Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji). The settlement also led to the decision to house all freshmen on campus. Former MIT President Charles M. Vest publicly apologized to the family for MIT’s role in Krueger’s death. Of the $6 million, $1.25 million was to be used to for a scholarship in Krueger’s memory, with the remaining $4.75 million compensatory damages to his parents.

Two other wrongful death lawsuits against MIT are active. After Shin’s death in 2000, her parents filed a highly-publicized lawsuit against MIT and employees of MIT in 2002 seeking $27.65 million in damages. In January and February of this year, the defendants made a motion for summary judgment, which means the defendants claim there are no contested issues of fact that would merit the deliberations of a jury. The judge can then render the verdict without further debate.

The parents of Julia Carpenter ’03, who committed suicide in 2001, also filed a suit in 2003 seeking more than $20 million in damages.

Kathy Lin contributed to the reporting of this story.