Frat looks to reverse $16.2 million judgment

October 27, 2008 4:32:26 AM PDT
A fraternity slapped with a $16.2 million judgment this week for a fatal alcohol-related hazing incident involving a University of Texas freshman said Friday that an administrative error prevented them from responding to a legal complaint. The national and university chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity must each pay the parents of Marietta, Ga., native Tyler Cross $2.5 million for mental anguish and nearly $81,000 for funeral expenses and other costs, according to the court decision Wednesday.

State District Judge John Dietz issued the order after the national and local branches of the organization failed to respond to a lawsuit by the parents, their attorney Robby Alden said.

The national and local branch can seek a new trial if attorneys can explain why they did not respond to the suit and can present a defense to the allegations.

On Friday, a statement issued by the national fraternity on its Web site said that Sigma Alpha Epsilon's attorney will file a motion to set aside the default judgment.

"The organization is hopeful, based on the facts, that the court will act as requested and that it will have an opportunity to answer as it already has for the individuals and others named in the lawsuit," the statement said.

Cross fell from the fifth floor of his off-campus dormitory in November 2006. Investigators said he and other pledges were given half-gallon liquor bottles to drink. An autopsy report showed Cross had a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit of .08.

Cross's parents have said that they don't want the fraternity's chapter to close. They simply want the organization's leadership to meet with them to resolve their claims in a way that allows the chapter to continue without hazing.

They want to make sure that no other young man dies "a senseless death" as the result of physical hazing, Alden said.

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