Marshall University added to bottle rocket case against frat

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 25, 2013

HUNTINGTON – A new defendant has been added in the lawsuit against Alpha Tau Omega after a member of the fraternity allegedly attempted to shoot bottle rockets out of his anus at a party.

The new defendant, Marshall University, was added to the lawsuit because it had a “legal duty to inspect fraternity houses…to insure that they complied with applicable building code, and were otherwise safe,” according to a second amended complaint filed Jan. 10 in Cabell Circuit Court.

Louis Helmburg III originally filed the suit against Alpha Tau Omega and Travis Hughes on Jan. 23, 2012. Richmond Properties Group, LTD, was added to the lawsuit on June 4 because it owns the properties of all ATO fraternity houses located throughout the United States.

On May 1, 2011, at about 1:30 a.m., the fraternity was having a house party Helmburg and Hughes were attending.

Helmburg claims Hughes became intoxicated and “in his drunken stupor” attempted to “shoot bottle rockets out of his anus on the ATO deck.”

Hughes placed a bottle rocket in his anus and ignited the fuse, but instead of launching, the bottle rocket blew up in Hughes’ rectum, according to the suit.

When doing so, Hughes startled Helmburg, who then jumped back and fell off of the deck of the fraternity house and was injured, according to the suit. He was lodged between the deck and an air conditioning unit.

Helmburg, a catcher for Marshall’s baseball team, claims there was no railing on the deck at the time of the incident and the deck was approximately three to four feet high.

The lack of railing had existed for at least several months, if not years, before the incident, according to the suit.

The suit says the fraternity was negligent in failing to provide a safe deck and that Hughes was at fault for consuming alcohol “which leads to stupid and dangerous activities.”

Helmburg also 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 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.

Marshall either performed an inadequate inspection of the ATO house and its deck, or failed to perform an inspection at all of the premises before granting the ATO charter to conduct a fraternity at the university, the amended complaint states.

Helmburg is seeking compensatory and punitive 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

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