MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — David A. Rusko has filed a lawsuit against the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, its WVU chapter, SAE Gamma, and several of its members after his son, David M. Rusko, 22, fell down the steps at a party on November 10, 2018 and suffered a brain injury causing permanent damage.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for Rusko’s injuries, punitive damages, interest, attorney fees and other relief as the court deems proper.
Rusko’s SAE fraternity brothers failed to call 911 until well over two hours after he fell down the stairs — when Rusko was bleeding from the nose and foaming at the mouth, the suit claims. When EMS arrived, they noted Rusko was hypoxic — meaning his brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen to function.
As a result, Rusko requires 24 hour nursing assistance and is permanently and totally disabled from gainful employment. Rusko is also paralyzed, according to the suit.
The suit names the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Gamma Chapter, Ed Cole, Chris Platz, Jane Doe, Benjamin T. Flower, Paul M. Perzynski, Jared R. Zickafoose, Cole Platt, Bryan P. Kondracki, Coltin J. Gore, Nathan L. Strietbeck, Zachary Pope, David J. Mauser, Brian R. Schneider, Brendan W. Dunn, and Michael W. Geary. Alpha Rho Corporation of West Virginia and Greek System Support Corporation are also named as defendants.
Cole was the fraternity advisor for WVU’s SAE chapter at the time of the incident. Platz was the fraternity’s regional director and Doe was the house mother who was supposed to live in the house and supervise social activities. The other individuals named were all attending WVU and were present at the time of the incident, according to the suit. It does not state if they were SAE members.
Alpha Rho and Greek System Support are owned and/or operated by some of the same owners, the suit said. Alpha Rho rents room in the WVU SAE house for $3,400 a semester and Greek System is a non-profit corporation that provides building maintenance, safety inspection, repair and support services to Alpha Rho — including its 650 North Spruce Street property which housed SAE.
Rusko’s injury happened at an unregistered party at the WVU SAE house after the WVU vs. TCU football game. According to the suit, non-fraternity members were allowed to attend, alcohol was served to those who were underage and to people who were visibly intoxicated.
As he was descending down the stairs from the third floor, Rusko fell down them. Zickafoose and Perzynski pulled the unconscious Rusko from the foot of the stairs to the hall and took selfies with him while laughing, according to the suit. After the two took the selfies they moved Rusko to Room 307 with Platt’s help and then left him. Platt checked on Rusko but did not help him.
About 40 minutes later, Gore, Kondracki and Strietbeck carried Rusko upside down from Room 307 downstairs to the main floor. This interaction was filmed by Geary, the suit said. Rusko was placed on a couch in the main living area. Flower, the fraternity’s vice president, saw the group carrying and filming Rusko and did nothing.
Video surveillance showed Rusko had trouble breathing and was unresponsive throughout the night, the suit states.
While on the main floor couch, fraternity members, including Mauser, Pope, Dunn and Schneider, stacked chairs and other objects on Rusko and took more videos of him unconscious. Ketchup was also squirted on Rusko. Perzynski posted videos of Rusko on Snapchat and other defendants distributed it to other social media platforms, the suit states.
SAE was a “repeat violator” of WVU’s fraternity code of conduct and rules, its own code of conduct, Morgantown’s noise ordinances and fire codes governing overcrowding, according to the suit. Examples given in the suit include hosting unregistered social functions, giving alcohol to people younger than 21, disorderly conduct, having kegs, missing events monitors and more.
SAE failed to take meaningful precautions prior to the incident with Rusko despite numerous and repeated instances of failure to follow those codes, policies and laws, the suit states.
In addition to the unsupervised and unsafe conduct, the building itself was a foreseeable danger to its residents and visitors, the suit claims. The stairs leading to the third floor, with its bar and pool table, have a steep rise, are too narrow, don’t have a hand rail and requires people to duck under a beam to go up or down the stairs.
The suit was filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court on Wednesday. The Dominion Post reached out to both SAE through its website and WVU. Neither responded in time for this report.
Will Dean/The Dominion Post