The father of a WVU student who suffered brain injuries after falling down the WVU Sigma Alpha Epsilon house in November is suing the fraternity and others.
Emergency medical service was called over two hours after David Rusko, a senior finance student from Uniontown, Pennsylvania, initially fell down the stairs, once someone noticed blood coming from his nose and foam coming from his mouth, according to the complaint, filed in Monongalia Circuit Court on June 26. He was in a hypoxic state upon EMS arrival, and his brain was not getting enough oxygen to sustain function.
Rusko “fell down the unsafe stairs due to the multiple unsafe conditions of the stairway,” according to the complaint.
Rusko now requires 24-hour nursing assistance for the brain damage he suffered along with paralysis according to the complaint. This was not the first time members were injured after falling down this flight of steps. There were also numerous complaints by former fraternity members about how unsafe and dangerous the staircase was, the plaintiff alleges.
Video surveillance shows two former fraternity members, Paul M. Perzynski and Jared R. Zickafoose, approach the unconscious Rusko and begin to move and mock him while taking selfies following the incident, according to the complaint.
Cole Platt, a fraternity member, proceeded to help the other members carry Rusko into another room, leaving him unattended, according to the complaint. The plaintiff claims Platt later re-entered the room, but did nothing to help Rusko.
Approximately 40 minutes later, defendants and former fraternity members Coltin J. Gore, Bryan P. Kondracki and Nathan L. Strietbeck moved Rusko again. The complaint claims they carried an unresponsive Rusko upside down to the main floor, while fraternity member Michael W. Geary filmed and laughed.
Still unconscious, Rusko was lying on the main floor couch when Strietbeck began squirting him with ketchup, according to the complaint. The plaintiff claims that other former fraternity members, and defendants Mauser, Pope, Dunn and Schneider, began stacking chairs and other objects on an unconscious Rusko.
Many former fraternity members filmed this and posted it to various social media platforms, including Snapchat, according to the complaint.
Former fraternity Vice President Benjamin T. Flower witnessed Rusko’s distress and did nothing to stop the other defendants’s actions, according to the complaint. Although Rusko displayed symptoms of labored breathing and unresponsiveness, no one called 911 or asked for medical emergency services until later that evening.
The plaintiff is suing for compensatory and punitive damages.
The complaint claims the West Virginia chapter of SAE was a repeat violator of the West Virginia University fraternity code of conduct rules and regulations, SAE’s Minerva’s Shield code of conduct, which prevents hazing and requires members to act in the best interest of others, the city of Morgantown’s noise nuisance laws and the fire marshal’s fire code regulations governing overcrowding.
SAE-WV has also in the past been sanctioned and fined by WVU for unauthorized, unregistered and unruly social functions, according to the complaint.
Violations include 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, according to the complaint.
In their affirmative defense filed on Aug. 29, SAE admitted the chapter received certain sanctions from WVU, but claims they are without sufficient information or knowledge to form a belief as to the truth of other allegations, and therefore denies the same; SAE denies being notified of the violations when they occurred and denied the allegations regarding the stairs among other things.
David A. Rusko, the father of Rusko, is represented by William M. Tiano of Tiano O’Dell and Thomas G. Dyer of Dyer Law.
The following defendants are named in the suit:
- Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity
- Sigma Alpha Epsilon West Virginia Gamma Chapter
- Ed Cole, fraternity advisor and Chris Platz, fraternity regional director
- Jane Doe, the fraternity’s unnamed house mother
- Benjamin T. Flower, officer for the fraternity at the time
- 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
- Greek System Support Corporation