The parents of the 20-year-old University of Rochester student who was fatally stabbed at a fraternity party on the UR campus in January 2011 have filed a lawsuit seeking $24 million in damages.
Delores Forest and Jeffrey Bordeaux Sr. filed the civil lawsuit Tuesday in state Supreme Court as the parents of Jeffrey Bordeaux Jr. and on behalf of his estate.
In addition to UR, the defendants are Delta Upsilon, which is the fraternity that hosted the party where the stabbing occurred, and Daren Venable, the UR student who fatally stabbed Bordeaux. Venable was subsequently found not guilty of second-degree murder on grounds of self defense.
The lawsuit seeks $6 million for each parent and $12 million for Bordeaux’s estate.
UR and the fraternity, according to the lawsuit, are accused of negligence by not taking appropriate steps that could have minimized the possibility of violence.
“Their negligence allowed for an intentional act by Venable,” said Michael Sussman, a lawyer in Goshen, Orange County, representing Bordeaux’s parents.
Although Venable was found not guilty of second-degree murder, the parents are seeking a civil trial. The standard of guilt in such a proceeding, Sussman said, is “preponderance of evidence,” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt” in the criminal trial.
Venable, according to the lawsuit, now lives in New York City.
UR conducted its own review of the fatal stabbing, and in a July 2011 report concluded that the college’s response to the incident was “appropriate and consistent with the university’s plan for dealing with emergencies.” But the report set forth 23 recommendations that would provide better ways to detect possible problems on campus.
Sara Miller, spokeswoman for UR, said that UR has not formally been made aware of the lawsuit and that Venable has been on indefinite suspension from the university since the fatal stabbing.
Delta Upsilon, Miller noted, continues to be an active chapter on campus. Many of its members now live in a special-interest housing area in UR’s residence halls. In a competitive selection process last school year, the fraternity lost its bid to continue to be housed on the Fraternity Quad. Seven groups competed for three houses.
The lawsuit alleges that Venable disclosed to UR in his admissions application that while he was in high school, he was in possession of a Swiss Army knife and had been suspended for a week.
No one during the admissions process, the lawsuit claims, commented on this matter. The lawsuit also alleges that Venable had a habit of carrying a knife on the university campus in violation of UR rules.
The lawsuit additionally alleges that UR failed to ensure that underage drinking would not be permitted on campus and said that Venable, who was then 20, was drinking at Delta Upsilon’s party prior to the fatal stabbing.
Campus security police, the lawsuit alleges, in practice “allows white fraternities, like DU,” to stage parties with no security presence.
On the night of fatal stabbing at the party, the lawsuit alleges, campus police “failed to exercise reasonable care and diligence and did not periodically check in on the DU party.”