A Northern Illinois University fraternity chapter has asked
the Illinois Supreme Court to step in and deny a father the chance to sue them
over the alcohol-induced death of his son at fraternal initiation event,
claiming a state appeals court overstepped and contradicted existing law and
precedent in allowing the father to press ahead with his action.
The state high court is expected to take up this appeal, as
well as others, during its March term, which begins March 14 in Springfield.
Illinois Supreme Court
In the case of Bogenberger
v. Eta Nu Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha International, plaintiff Gary Bogenberger
had brought a wrongful death action against the Eta Nu Chapter, which operates
at NIU, the chapter’s leaders, and the international fraternal organization, asserting
they all bore liability for the death of his son, David, who died during a
November 2012 event at the Eta Nu house in DeKalb.
Bogenberger had asserted the fraternal event, identified as “Mom
and Dads Night,” required fraternity pledges to consume massive amounts of
alcohol until they lost bodily control or passed out. They were then allegedly
taken to the basement of the fraternity house, where they were laid in “positions
so they would not choke” on their own vomit. The complaint alleged fraternity
members were ordered to delete photos and videos of the event, and not call for
medical help for the passed out pledges.
The complaint asserted David Bogenberger died with a blood
alcohol level of 0.43 mg/dl.
NIU did not sanction the event.
In 2014, Cook County Circuit Judge Kathy M. Flanagan had
dismissed the action against all defendants, citing precedent which declared
social hosts cannot be held at fault for the actions of those consuming
However, in this case, justices for the Illinois First
District Appellate Court said Illinois’ Hazing Act creates an exception,
allowing Bogenberger to sue the fraternity chapter and its officers – though not
the international fraternity - for “embarrassing” the younger Bogenberger into “endangering”
himself “through thoughtless and meaningless activity.”
The fraternity chapter appealed that ruling, arguing the
appellate decision contradicts the state Supreme Court’s long-established
precedent “that ‘there is no common law cause of action against any provider of
alcoholic beverages for injuries arising out of the sale or gift of such
In other cases on the March docket, the Illinois Supreme
Court is also expected to take up the question of whether lawyers expecting to
be paid under referral agreements with other lawyers need to expressly include
language in their contracts that both will assume “joint financial
The Lake County case of Ferris,
Thompson & Zweig v. Anthony Esposito will return to the state high
court, two years after justices ruled circuit courts had jurisdiction to
resolve disputes between attorneys bickering over fees owed for work on workers
In this instance, however, the parties are now at odds over
whether the Ferris firm has a right to demand its share of fees from Esposito stemming
from at least 10 worker compensation cases it referred to Esposito. The
defendant has argued it should not need to pay because the referral agreement
did not explicitly dictate the two law practices would share “joint financial
Lawyers for Esposito argue the Illinois Second District
Appellate Court erred in finding Illinois professional conduct rules don’t
require that language to make referral contracts enforceable. They argue this
decision conflicts with the findings of the state’s First District Appellate
Court, which should control in this situation.
And, also in the March term, the state Supreme Court is
scheduled to hear arguments in Better
Government Association v. Illinois High School Association over whether the
IHSA – the organization would oversees the state’s high school sports - should be considered a public organization
whose records are subject to information requests filed under the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA.)
Last year, the BGA appealed the First District Appellate
Court’s decision to find the IHSA should be exempted from FOIA requirements,
even though its member schools receive public money from taxes.