Frat in 'fireworks battle' sues Miami U. for $10M

One of the fraternities involved in the fireworks battle at Miami University has slapped the school with a $10 million lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court by the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity, states Miami acted with “reckless disregard” and with “malice, hatred and ill will” toward the 37 banished sophomores. The suit, filed by F. Harrison Green, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Alpha Chapter of the National Fraternity, says the students have suffered “severe emotional distress” and “substantial lost income and reputation.”

Last week, the university placed Phi Kappa Tau and Sigma Alpha Epsilon on summary suspension after police found fraternity members shooting fireworks at each other at 5:30 a.m. Aug. 19. Upon searching the houses, police found unmarked bottles of pills, container of white powder, marijuana, scales, bongs, and spent and unlit fireworks.

Oxford Police Chief Bob Holzworth said charges are pending while they await lab test results that should be back next week.

Claire Wagner, associate director of university communications, said the sophomores had to leave the fraternity houses because of a university rule that says all first- and second-year students who don’t commute, must live in campus housing. Students who join a fraternity can get an exemption to live in a fraternity house. Since the fraternities are temporarily unrecognized by the university, the sophomores had to leave the houses and move back on campus.

Wagner couldn’t comment on the lawsuit, but said “this is for the safety of students.” The university will continue to investigate the incident, she said.

Brandon Weghorst, Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s associate executive director for communication. said he doresn’t believe the organization will file suit against the university. The Miami SAE chapter suspended six of its members over the incident. He said their investigation is ongoing.

He said the goal as a national headquarters is to make sure the chapter and its members are “complying with our expectations and our chapter standards. We’ll take whatever corrective actions necessary to make sure that they do.”

Green also filed a temporary restraining order with the lawsuit asking Judge Susan Dlott to stop Miami from moving the sophomores out of their house. Dlott denied the motion. The students received their new housing arrangements Tuesday and have 48 hours to move out.

Green could not be reached for comment but his lawsuit asks to stop Miami from moving the students out of the house, seeks compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. An affidavit by Green indicates the fraternity will lose more than $130,000 this year with the loss of the sophomores.

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