Fraternity members who were running with Clemson student Tucker Hipps on the morning he died didn’t object to the Hipps family adding to its lawsuit against them allegations made by a passerby who said he saw Hipps being forced to walk along the rail of the bridge over Lake Hartwell, according to a document filed in Pickens County court this week.
Attorneys on both sides of two $25 million lawsuits also agreed to a confidentiality order that allows them to shield from the public certain documents in the case.
The latest filings put on the record the general terms of agreements both sides came to before Nov. 5, when a hearing on all motions on the case were scheduled to be heard in court.
The consent order allowing the Hipps family to amend their lawsuits with new allegations says only that “the defendants do not raise any objection to these motions to amend” on the condition that their responses to the original lawsuit remain in effect.
Three Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity members ─ Thomas Carter King, Campbell T. Starr and Samuel Quillen Carney ─ have denied any involvement in Hipps’ death.
The amended lawsuit alleges that Hipps, who was pledging to become a member of the fraternity, fell from the rail over the State 93 bridge into Lake Hartwell, where he hit his head on rocks in shallow water.
The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office interviewed the person who came forward with the new allegations and decided that his story wasn’t credible. Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams agreed with that assessment.
Attorneys for Starr and King declined to comment, and the attorney for Quillen couldn’t be reached. An attorney for the Hipps family didn’t return a call from The Greenville News.
A motion to dismiss the South Carolina chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon was held in abeyance until a legal determination can be made.
Documents in the case that can be designated as confidential must be protected from disclosure by statute or be sensitive personal information, trade secrets, confidential research, development or commercial information, according to the order.
That would include student records that are subject to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, it said.
Portions of depositions may be deemed confidential, the order says.