West Virginia Record

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Father of WVU student sues fraternity for fall that caused brain damage, paralysis


By Kyla Asbury | Jul 1, 2019

MORGANTOWN — The father of a West Virginia University student who fell at one of the school's fraternity houses is suing for his son's injuries.

David M. Rusko's father named Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity; Sigma Alpha Epsilon West Virginia Gamma Chapter; Ed Cole, the fraternity advisor; Chris Platz, the regional director for the fraternity; the fraternity's unnamed house mother; Benjamin T. Flower, an officer for the fraternity; fraternity members Paul M. Perzynski, Jared R. Zickafoose, Cole Platt, Bryan P. Kondracki, Coltin J. Gore, Nathan L. Strietbeck, Zachary Pope, David J. Mauser, Brian R. Schneider, Brendan W. Dunn and Michael W. Geary; Alpha Rho Corporation of West Virginia; and Greek System Support Corporation in the suit.

The father claims Rusko, who was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, fell down a flight of stairs at the fraternity house on Nov. 10 and was rendered unconscious, according to a complaint filed June 26 in Monongalia Circuit Court.

The suit claims the fraternity was sanctioned and fined by WVU for unauthorized, unregistered and unruly social functions at the fraternity house for various violations, including hosting an unregistered social function; providing, furnishing or making alcohol available to those under 21; disorderly conduct; presence of kegs, party balls or mass consumption devices; failure to follow local policies and/or laws; missing event monitors; Fire Code violations; nuisance; glass container violations; guest list violations; and other safety hazards.

Video surveillance depicts after Rusko fell down the stairs, Perzynski and Zickafoose approached him and pulled him into the hall, mocking him and taking selfies with him while he was unconscious, according to the complaint. Perzynski, Zickafoose and Platt then took him down the hall to another room and left him unattended.

Later, Platt looked in on Rusko, but did nothing to help him, the plaintiff claims. Approximately 40 minutes later, Gore, Kondracki and Strietbeck carried Rusko out of the room and took him to the main floor, carrying him upside down and Geary, who was filming the incident, was laughing, according to the suit.

The father claims Flower witnessed the others' actions but did nothing to intervene on Rusko's behalf. Throughout the night, video surveillance revealed Rusko exhibiting signs of labored breathing and unresponsiveness, yet no one called 911 or sought emergency medical assistance until much later in the evening.

While Rusko was unconscious, Strietbeck took a ketchup bottle and began squirting him with ketchup, according to the suit. Other members, including Mauser, Pope, Dunn and Schneider began stacking chairs and other objects onto Rusko and took videos of him lying unconscious.

Fraternity members distributed videos of Rusko on Snapchat and other social media platforms.

Approximately two hours after the incident, EMS was called when someone noticed blood pouring from Rusko's nose and his mouth started foaming, according to the suit.

Rusko's father claims EMS noted Rusko was hypoxic, meaning his brain was not getting enough oxygen, and he was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital.

Rusko suffered brain damage and is now paralyzed, according to the suit.

Before the November incident, there were at least two instances where fraternity members fell down the third-floor stairs, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also claims that there were even more events prompting complaints by fraternity members about the dangerous and unsafe features of the third-floor stairs.

Rusko's father claims the defendants were negligent; intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Rusko; that the fraternity and its West Virginia chapter allowed the events to happen; invaded Rusko's privacy; and failed to seek medical attention.

Rusko's father, David A. Rusko, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for his son's injuries. He is represented by William M. Tiano of Tiano O'Dell and Thomas G. Dyer of Dyler Law.

Monongalia Circuit Court Case number: 19-C-188

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Monongalia Circuit Court West Virginia University

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