Fraternity Cleared by Iowa Court in Drinking Death of Elgin Resident
Tabor, Terri, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Iowa's Supreme Court has ruled that a fraternity and one of its members are not responsible for the 1995 death of Matthew Garofalo of Elgin - who died the morning after a big brother/little brother ceremony at the University of Iowa.
The state's highest court Thursday upheld a 1998 Iowa District Court ruling that said because Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity did not supply the alcohol or force Garofalo to drink, it could not be held liable for the 19-year-old's death.
The high court also found that members of the fraternity, including Tim Reier - who let Garofalo pass out on his couch in his room at the fraternity house -did not act negligently in connection with Garofalo's death.
However, the Garofalo family could still pursue their civil case against Chad Diehl, Garofalo's fraternity "big brother," who bought the alcohol Garofalo consumed that night.
Family members could not be reached for comment and their attorneys did not return phone calls Friday.
Thursday's ruling finally removes the national Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity from a spotlight of blame.
"We are pleased with the ruling of the Iowa Supreme Court, to have the issue resolved and to have closure on the tragedy that affected not only the Garofalo family but Lambda Chi Alpha as well," said Tom Helmbock, executive vice president of Lambda Chi Alpha.
The year following their son's death, Edward and Monica Garofalo filed a wrongful death suit against the national fraternity, its University of Iowa Chapter, Reier, Diehl, and two other fraternity members, who later were dismissed from the suit.
Garofalo's parents alleged the fraternity and its members acted negligent by failing to properly care for their son on the night of Sept. 5, 1995.
Following a 20-minute fraternity ceremony - where there was no alcohol present - members drank a traditional toast to the occasion in their rooms. By 11:30 p.m. Garofalo was in no shape to go out to the local taverns with his friends, so Diehl and Reier helped him to Reier's couch where he passed out, according to the ruling. …