New defendant added in bottle rocket case against fraternity
HUNTINGTON – A new defendant has been added in the lawsuit against Alpha Tau Omega after a member of the fraternity attempted to shoot bottle rockets out of his anus.
The new defendant, Richmond Properties Group LTD, was added to the lawsuit because it owns the properties of all of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity houses located throughout the United States, including the property that houses Marshall University's ATO chapter in Huntington.
On May 1, 2011, at about 1:30 a.m., ATO was having a house party that both Louis Helmburg III and Travis Hughes were attending.
Hughes was highly intoxicated and decided "in his drunken stupor that it would be a good idea to shoot bottle rockets out of his anus on the ATO deck, located on the back of the ATO house," according to the amended complaint filed June 4 in Cabell Circuit Court.
Helmburg, who plays for Marshall University's baseball team, claims several people in attendance at the house party were under the legal drinking age, including Hughes, and most of the people in attendance at the house party were drinking with full knowledge and consent of the ATO fraternity.
There were several other ATO fraternity members on the deck at the time of the incident, including one or more officers of the fraternity, according to the suit.
Helmburg claims Hughes placed a bottle rocket in his anus and ignited the fuse, but instead of launching, the bottle rocket blew up in Hughes' rectum. The explosion startled Helmburg, causing him to jump back, at which time he fell off of the ATO deck and became lodges between the deck and an air conditioner unit adjacent to the deck.
There was no railing on the deck at the time of the incident and the lack of railing had existed for at least several months, if not years, before the incident, according to the suit.
Helmburg claims the deck was in the exclusive custody, maintenance and control of the ATO fraternity and Richmond Properties Group.
The defendants owed Helmburg a duty to provide a safe deck, including a railing, and also to provide a safe place, which included a duty to supervise its guests and its own fraternity members, such as Hughes and others underage, from consuming alcohol on its premises, "which leads to stupid and dangerous activities, such as shooting bottle rockets out of one's own anus," according to the suit.
Helmburg claims the defendants breached their duties to him, which caused him injuries, including pain and suffering, lost time from baseball with Marshall's team, lost earning capacity, medical expenses and other damages.
Helmburg is seeking compensatory damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. He is being represented by Timothy P. Rosinsky.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell.
Cabell Circuit Court case number: 12-C-57