Clemson University and members of Tucker Hipps’ fraternity have responded to two $25 million lawsuits in part by asking a judge to dismiss the case.
Hipps, 19, was president of the Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge class when he went on a pre-dawn run with 26 other pledges and several fraternity members on Sept. 22. They ran along S.C. 93, and Hipps’ body was found that afternoon underneath a S.C. 93 bridge where they had been running.
Hipps’ parents filed the lawsuits in March. Besides the university, three fraternity brothers and the national fraternity organization were named as defendants.
All the defendants’ attorneys said any negligence was on Hipps’ part, and they should not be liable for his actions. The defendants also point to weaknesses in procedural parts of the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Hipps died after a confrontation about his failure to bring McDonalds breakfast for the fraternity members that morning.
The responses from the three men, the university and the national fraternity were filed last week, the first defense they had entered.
The fraternity brothers, Thomas Carter King of North Carolina, Campbell T. Starr of Greenville and Samuel Quillen Carney of Delaware, organized the run, according to the lawsuit.
Carney’s attorneys asked a judge to dismiss the case, citing South Carolina law that does not allow parents to sue for losses of an adult child. The attorneys also say the lawsuits do not show Carney, whose father is a Delaware congressman, caused Hipps’ death.
"At best, they (the lawsuit’s allegations) do nothing more than demonstrate that Sam Carney was a member of the Sig Ep fraternity, that he played some part in organizing a short run with a group of 27 pledges from which all but one returned safely, and that he participated in that same run," according to the response. "There is no specific allegation that Sam Carney had anything to do with Tucker Hipps going over the railing of the bridge, or that Sam Carney even had any awareness that Tucker Hipps had gone over the railing of the bridge."
Carney’s attorneys wrote that the lawsuit reaches a conclusion that Carney was responsible but does not support it with any evidence.
The lawsuit does not say how Hipps left the bridge, whether he fell, jumped or was forced.
The lawsuit alleges that Hipps argued with King shortly before his death.
King’s attorneys said any carelessness, recklessness or negligence was due to Hipps’ actions or the actions of unspecified others, not King’s.
Starr’s attorneys also said Hipps was responsible.
Clemson University’s response acknowledges that the university was investigating fraternities before Hipps’ death because of complaints but the university did not identify Sigma Phi Epsilon or other fraternities by name.
The university said it should qualify for immunity and that any negligence was the result of others, not the school.
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