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After Orono Frat House Assault, Lawyers Ask: What Rights Do Victims Have?

lawyer speaking to juryCan frat houses be sued for crimes committed on their property? A Maine court debates this very question, as attorneys duke it out over a 2010 incident that occurred at the Delta Tau Delta’s Gamma Nu Chapter fraternity house at 111 East College Avenue in Orono.

The victim’s lawyer argued that his client should be allowed to sue, given that the incident appears to have been premeditated. The defense attorney countered that the lawsuit would trigger a landslide of lawsuits against large organizations that have little control over individual members.

A similar lawsuit against an Indiana chapter of Delta Tau Delta fizzled out in court earlier this year, but the Maine personal injury lawyers at Hardy, Wolf & Downing believe this case could be different.

What makes a crime “foreseeable?”

Local frat member Joshua Clukey was on the warpath. For several weeks, he allegedly consumed “excessive” amounts of alcohol, fought with fellow fraternity members, and damaged the property. His conduct was poor enough to warranty expulsion from the organization, but it can be argued that the group’s “failure to enforce the rules” allowed the assault to take place.

According to court filings, Clukey shoved a female party guest onto his bed, made sexual advances, and tried to prevent her from leaving. She escaped the room with minor injuries after 10 minutes. Later, Clukey pleaded guilty to assault and furnishing alcohol to a minor, and paid an out-of-court settlement.

Justice Ellen Gorman expressed hesitation in holding national members of the fraternity liable for what happened, but implied that some of the local individuals had some responsibility for the failure to enforce the laws. Even though fraternities have a reputation for drinking and debauchery, partygoers should have the right to attend events with their friends, without fear of physical or sexual assault.

Justice Joseph Jabar questioned: “How can a national organization turn over a building to 20-year-olds, set a rule of conduct, then walk away, wash their hands of it and have no responsibility for what takes place there? We’re talking about foreseeability.”

Assault victims have certain rights, say attorneys

It could be weeks or months before we hear a final ruling on this case from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, but it’s important to know that victims of assault do have rights.

For instance, assault victims possess:

  • The right to attend and participate in criminal justice proceedings;
  • The right to apply for compensation;
  • The right to be informed of available services, legal rights, and court proceedings
  • The right to protection from intimidation and harassment;
  • The right to restitution from the offender;
  • The right to prompt return of personal property seized as evidence;
  • The right to a speedy trial; and
  • The right to enforcement of these rights.

Maine personal injury lawyers at Hardy, Wolf & Downing specialize in assault cases

Victims have the right to be treated with dignity and fairness. Our Maine premises liability attorneys are troubled by the dialogue suggesting that assault victims are in some way liable for what happens to them simply by showing up at a frat house. We will be closely following the case as they continue to pursue justice for their clients.

If you or someone you love has suffered a personal attack or assault, we want you to know you have the right to pursue more than a brush-off settlement. Violent offenders should receive more than a slap on the wrist for dangerous actions that put the wellbeing of others at risk. Our attorneys have the experience and tenacity to go after guilty parties, whether they are individuals or larger organizations. Call 800-992-7333 for a free and confidential case assessment.

  1. Bangor Daily News - Maine court considers whether assault at fraternity house in Orono could have been foreseen, https://bangordailynews.com/2014/12/10/news/bangor/the-institution-of-fraternities-is-not-on-trial-here-maine-court-considers-whether-orono-assault-could-have-been-foreseen/
  2. Office of Justice Programs – Victim Law https://www.victimlaw.org/victimlaw/pages/victimsRight.jsp
  3. Washington Post - One in 5 girls will be sexually assaulted in college. Here’s how to help change that, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/local/wp/2014/12/03/one-in-five-girls-will-be-raped-in-college-eight-steps-parents-can-take-to-change-that