The Sorority held a new member retreat at a hotel. The members set up a ropes course at a nearby park. The ropes were approximately 6 feet off the ground. As a team building exercise, the new members had to help each other cross the rope without touching the ground. The second new member crossing the rope fell and broke her ankle. She had to undergo surgery to repair it.
A lawsuit was filed and was eventually settled for $175,000. The investigation determined that new members were not given the option of not participating and the organizations guidelines indicated spotters were supposed to be used.
During Parents Weekend, the mother of a member tripped over a wire that was run through the bottom of rocking chairs on the front porch of the house. The wire was gray and was a couple of inches off of the ground. The member’s mother sustained a significant injury to her elbow when she fell.
A lawsuit was not filed. However, the claimant did retain legal counsel. It was alleged that the sorority created a hazard by running the wire under the chairs and that the hazard should have been removed while invited guests were on the property.
The claim settled for $450,000.
A guest at the chapter’s barn dance was struck and killed by a drunk driver. The bus transporting members and their guests back to campus dropped the guest off prior to arriving at the drop off point at the guest’s request. The guest was later struck and killed by a drunk driver.
A lawsuit was filed against the Sorority and bus company. It is alleged that the sorority failed to enforce its own policies to prevent invitees from exiting the party bus an unauthorized drop locations.
The claimant sustained a brain injury during the chapter’s philanthropic football tournament. The chapter used University property to set up two football fields. The fields spanned the lateral width of a grassy area with retaining walls at the end zones. The claimant was attempting to catch a pass when he hit the retaining wall and landed on his head and shoulder on a brick sidewalk just passed the retaining wall. The claimant sustained an epidural hematoma and had to undergo an emergency craniotomy. It is alleged that the claimant will continue to experience difficulties associated with his injury for the rest of his life.
A lawsuit was recently filed against the University and the Sorority. The lawsuit alleges the Sorority failed to exercise reasonable care to make a safe playing field and should have known the dangers of the retaining wall being so close to the end zone.
The claim settled for $1,500,000. A waiver was not signed even though it was procedure for the Chapter to have them signed for this type of event. We were told that there was a good chance that the wavier would have held up.
A guest at the chapter’s barn dance fell into the bonfire. The claimant stood on a log near the fire in order to have her picture taken. The claimant slipped and fell into the fire. According to the newspaper, the claimant’s blood alcohol level was 0.14. The claimant was of legal drinking age.
A lawsuit has recently been filed against the sorority, the owner of the farm and the liquor store that provided the alcohol for the event. It is alleged in the lawsuit that the sorority did not provide the number of event monitor’s required by the University.
After the bus dropped the members and their dates off, a member’s date allegedly drove while intoxicated and struck a member and her date. The members date was killed as a result of the accident.
A lawsuit is pending.
The organization was setting up for a charity event when two members of the organization were pushing a student employee on a 25 foot tallescope ladder. The two women pushing the ladder ran over an extension cord on the floor which caused the ladder to topple over and the student employee to fall 25 feet to the ground. The student employee sustained a traumatic brain injury as well as severe injuries to her face, jaw, and teeth.
A lawsuit was filed naming the volunteers, organization and the charity. The University was immune from tort liability because it is both a governmental entity and because it provided workers’ compensation benefits to the injured student employee. It was defense counsel’s opinion that a jury would likely place 25% liability on each volunteer/member, 25% liability on the organization and 25% liability on the University. Even though a jury may have apportioned liability to the University, they would not have had to make any payments. It was also believed that the two members would have been immune from liability based on the state’s Volunteer Service Acts.
The University agreed to waive their subrogation lien of $1,500,000 which aided in the lawsuit settling for $850,000 during mediation. It is unknown if the charity paid a settlement.
Claim Involving a House Director
The House Director purchased personal items on the Chapter’s account. The Chapter became aware of unusual purchases such as gift cards and began to investigate further. During the investigation, the Chapter discovered that when they would issue a check to Costco, the House Director would purchase gift cards for her personal use instead of food for the Chapter. The insurance carrier paid $7,326.90. The total amount of the loss was $9826.90 A $2,500 retention was applied.
The House Director would alter/increase Sam’s Club invoices when she submitted them to the House Corporation for reimbursement. The insurance carrier paid $134,036.87. The total loss was $234,036.87. A $100,000 retention applied.
The House Director opened a second Costco account membership without the knowledge of the House Corporation. The House Director used the card to purchase Costco Cash Cards, gift certificates and other personal items. The insurance carrier paid $53,066.94.The total amount of the loss was $58,066.94. A $5,000 retention was applied.
Claims Involving the House Corporation
The House Corporation Treasurer embezzled approximately $37,000. The majority of the funds were taken by the Treasurer writing checks for cash. The embezzlement was discovered when the new House Corporation Board took over and realized that payroll withholding tax had not been paid, which lead to an audit. At the time the money was embezzled, the checks did not require two signatures. The insurance carrier paid $32,000. A $5,000 retention was applied.
The House Corporation Treasurer embezzled money from the House Corporation funds. The House Corporation Treasurer wrote checks for cash and for personal items. The checks only required one signature. The claim was discovered when a new House Corporation Treasurer took over. The insurance carrier made a payment of $146,859. The total amount of the loss was $149,359. A $2,500 retention was applied.
The House Corporation Treasurer wrote checks to pay for the remodeling of her house. Only one signature was required on the checks. The loss was discovered by another member of the House Corporation during an annual review. The insurance carrier made a payment of $16,856.96. The total amount of the loss was $19,358. A $2,500 retention was applied.
The House Corporation Treasurer issued checks to herself and made ATM withdrawals using the House Corporation’s bank card for personal purchases. The loss was gradually discovered when the Treasurer became difficult to reach, checks started bouncing and bills started to go unpaid. At the time, the House Corporation only required one signature to be on checks. The insurance carrier paid $33,143. The total amount of the loss was $35,643. A $2,500 retention was applied.
A House Corporation President stole over a million dollars over a seven year period. The House Corporation President would use House Corporation funds to pay several of her personal credit cards every month. Most of the payments were coded under food, house supplies, and repairs. The House Corporation President was the only board member. Therefore, no one else was reviewing payments issued out of the House Corporation’s account. The loss was discovered when another volunteer assumed the role of the House Corporation President. The volunteer immediately questioned payments issued to credit cards companies as the House Corporation did not have a credit card in their name. The insurance carrier paid the policy limit of $500,000. The total amount of the loss was $1,600,000.
A House Corporation President stole $106,348. The loss was discovered as the House Corporation President failed to respond to a new House Corporation member. The new House Corporation member was able to follow a paper trail to find out the bank the House Corporation used. It was discovered that the account had been depleted. The funds were used for the House Corporation President’s personal use. Only once signature was required to be on the checks and the House Corporation President was the only person with access to the House Corporations account. The insurance carrier paid $101,348. A $5,000 retention was applied to the loss.
A House Corporation President colluded with a third party and stole approximately $3,000,000. The House Corporation President set up a separate account without the knowledge of the other members of the House Corporation. The House Corporation used dual controls for legitimate business purchases. The insured carrier paid the policy limit of $500,000.
Claims Involving Chapter Officers
The Chapter Treasurer wrote checks to herself by signing the previous Chapter Treasurer’s name to the checks. The loss was discovered when the Chapter discovered unpaid bills. After learning of the unpaid bills, the Chapter ordered bank statements and discovered the embezzlement. The insurance carrier paid $4,674.11. The total amount of the loss was $7,174.11. A $2,500 retention was applied.
The Chapter Treasurer stole Chapter funds by issuing reimbursement checks to herself. The Treasurer falsified a spreadsheet and made up expenses that she allegedly incurred. When questioned about this, the Treasurer could not provide any documentation or receipts. The loss was discovered when bills were not being paid. The insurance carrier paid $10,782.73. The total amount of the loss was $13,282.73. A $2,500 retention was applied.
Claims Involving Headquarter Staff
The Finance Director wrote checks to herself and other entities. The loss was discovered after the Finance Director was terminated. While cleaning out her desk, checks with forged signatures were discovered. This prompted the organization to review their bank accounts. It was discovered that the Finance Director had been making payments to her mortgage and credit card companies for a few years. The insurance carrier paid out $80,043.59. The total amount of the loss was $85,043.59. A $5,000 retention was applied.
An employee and her husband colluded to steal badges that had been returned to the organization and stored at Headquarters. Additionally, the employee was also misdirecting the shipments of new member badges to her home address and selling for scrap value. Both the former employee and her husband were arrested. The insurance carrier paid the policy limit of $500,000. The total amount of the loss was $696,803.
Retentions are used by Chubb Insurance and they are also called deductibles, which is a more commonly known term. You will find varying retentions depending upon:
- When the claim occurred (insurance company keeps increasing the deductibles as the claims experience trends in the negative
- When the claim occurred and whether there was evidence of dual controls
A sorority chapter was having a co-sponsored event with a fraternity chapter on campus in hopes of raising funds for the fraternity’s philanthropy. The event was held at the fraternity chapter house. Some of the fraternity members setup a make-shift slip-and-slide using tarps and spikes. The individuals that setup the slip-and-slide did not push the spikes all the way into the ground. The sorority chapter women had nothing to do with the design of the slip-and-slide.
About twenty minutes after the event started, a non-member guest went down the slip-and-slide and severely injured her leg on one of the spikes that was sticking up from the ground. The claimant’s estimated medical expenses are nearly $40,000. The claimant’s attorney has requested a settlement of $300,000 from the fraternity and sorority in question and has threatened further legal action if that amount is not paid to the claimant within 30 days.
The fraternity’s insurance company plans to offer the claimant a settlement of $100,000, and the sorority’s insurance company has offered to contribute twenty percent of the proposed settlement amount (equal to $20,000) to the fraternity’s insurance company.
Risk management lessons
This claim demonstrates that your chapters, volunteers and members can still be named in lawsuits even when they had little to do with an injury occurring other than co-sponsoring said event. In this case, if the sorority had inspected the slip-and-slide and realized the danger that the metal spikes posed (as well as the risks associated with a makeshift slip-and-slide, in general), the injury may have been prevented. This claim demonstrates that your chapters, volunteers and members can still be named in lawsuits even when they had little to do with an injury occurring other than co-sponsoring said event. In this case, if the sorority had inspected the slip-and-slide and realized the danger that the metal spikes posed (as well as the risks associated with a makeshift slip-and-slide, in general), the injury may have been prevented.
Issues to discuss
- What safer alternatives are there to a slip-and-slide activity?
- What measures should the sorority chapter have put in place to ensure the safety of events that they are co-sponsoring with another fraternity chapter, especially when the event is being held at the fraternity chapter house?
- What other takeaways can you glean from this example to improve risk management at your location?
Two members attended a semi-formal event in which alcohol was served by a third-party vendor. Both members were over 21 and reportedly had been drinking at the event. It is believed that they were walking home from the party and became disoriented and lost. One member tripped and fell as she walked into the street. The other member tried to help her up, when they were both struck by a car. One member was killed and the other member sustained serious injuries.
At this point, no charges have been filed against the sorority; however, the statute of limitations in the state in question has yet to expire.
Issues to discuss
- Do your policies address transportation to and from official events?
- Fortunately, in this situation, the alcohol was served by a licensed, insured third-party vendor. Discuss how using licensed, insured third-party vendors is so important to managing your risk.
- What additional risk management policies should have been in place to minimize the likelihood of a claim like this happening again?
A member attended a party at an “unofficial” chapter house. The “unofficial” chapter house was actually an apartment, in which four chapter members lived together. The apartment came to be known on campus as your organization’s chapter house. The member was very intoxicated, and some other chapter members arranged for a fraternity chapter member to drive her home. The fraternity chapter member accidentally ran over her as he was backing out of her driveway.
In the discovery process of the claim, it was revealed that a traveling consultant from the national organization had visited with this specific chapter the week before. The plaintiff’s attorney found evidence that the traveling consultant had participated in drinking games with the chapter members.
The insurance company settled the claim on behalf of the plaintiff for just under $1M.
Issues to discuss
- Do you have locations that are not official chapter houses that might appear to be chapter houses? If so, what can you do to minimize “unofficial” chapter houses from appearing as chapter houses on your campus?
- How does the traveling consultant’s actions and behavior contribute to the negligence and liability of the sorority?
- What risk management policies should have been in place to minimize the likelihood of a claim like this happening again?