Meyers & Flowers’ Partner, Peter J. Flowers, has teamed up with Indiana-based law firm, Hovde, Dassow & Deets to file negligence and wrongful conduct complaints against the University of Notre Dame on behalf of Sean Tennant after he sustained permanent brain injuries in a residence hall.
On the night of January 27, 2019, Notre Dame freshman, Sean Tennant, attended a party at his university owned and operated dorm, Sorin Hall. Unlike most university’s on-campus housing, here it was commonplace for alcohol to be freely consumed throughout the halls. Tennant, who was 18 at the time, was winding down his night when he fell 30 feet over a stairwell balcony to a concrete basement floor. Sean survived the two-story fall but suffered catastrophic brain injuries that will severely affect his neurocognitive and functional abilities for the rest of his life.
Sean’s avoidable incident comes after years of the University turning a blind eye to the dangers of encouraging a quasi-fraternity atmosphere and inability to enact safety policies. The Roman Catholic university failed to take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of their students living under their care and supervision.
“They encourage the kids to act like the dorms are fraternities, where you’ve got kids of legal age mixed in with underage kids and inadequate policies and procedures in place, creating an unreasonably dangerous environment,” said Flowers.
Since its construction in 1889, Sorin Hall has been a temporary home to thousands and continues to house 143 male students each year. There and among the other 30 dorms across the South Bend campus a long-standing quasi-fraternity atmosphere is actively encouraged. Since there are no sororities or fraternities on campus, the residence halls are the focal point of the students’ social lives. Students are required to live in one of the residential halls for the first three years of school. Atypical of most college campuses, more than half of Notre Dame’s seniors live in on-campus residence halls which creates an unusual mix of students of legal drinking age and underclassmen in the dorms. As the Defendant continues to encourage upperclassmen to reside in college-owned housing, it allows alcohol to be easily accessible to students not of age.
The University employs individuals known as Rectors to live in the resident halls to monitor, guide, and nurture the young adults through their college experience. Alongside the rectors, are Assistant Rectors (AR’s), graduate students paid to work with the Hall Staff to ensure a healthy and safe environment for tenants. Additionally, there are Resident Assistants (RA’s), senior students who share responsibilities of overseeing the hall community.
Although numerous supervisors had a duty to protect their residents, especially the impressionable first-year students, they failed to act to maintain Sorin Hall’s safety and uphold Notre Dame’s Standards of Conduct. At the time of Tennant’s fall, rector of Sorin Hall, Fr. Robert Loughery was not in the building, despite being aware of the party. The university’s faculty has created a systemic problem that condones alcohol consumption by minors while providing no supervision creating a hazardous living environment.
The faculty knew that drinking, particularly underage drinking, was occurring in the halls, yet took no preventative measures to protect student. The University put student-residents in harm’s way by overlooking Sorin Hall’s infrastructure which was badly out of date and in evident need of repair. Notre Dame’s oldest dormitory failed to maintain its stairwell and balcony railings to current building code, did not update to incorporate modern safeguards and lacked routine maintenance to provide safe housing. Despite the Defendant spending hundreds of millions on other residence halls and facilities, Sorin Hall neglected to provide basic safety warnings regarding the hazardous height of the balcony railings.
Peter J. Flowers and Hovde, Dassow & Deets have filed a complaint with St. Joseph County to demand a jury trial for compensatory and punitive damages against the University of Notre Dame Du Lac on behalf of Sean Tennant and the Tennant Family. The Tennants seek to gain rightful compensation to assist with Sean’s hundreds of thousands in medical bills and lifetime of assisted care.
If you or someone you know, has any information about The University of Notre Dame’s negligence that could help our team obtain justice for Sean Tennant, please contact us at (877) 221-2511 or [email protected].