Marshall University Student Injured in the “Bottle Rocket” Case Reaches a Settlement

668436_rocket.jpgRecently, a settlement was reached in a rather unique case involving students at West Virginia’s Marshall University. The case involved a fraternity party on campus, where one party guest was injured by another guest’s decision to place a bottle rocket up his anus.

The case began in May 2011, when both Travis Hughes and Louis Helmburg III attended a late-night house party hosted by the fraternity Alpha Tau Omega. During the party, Hughes became highly intoxicated and, in a “drunken stupor,” attempted to shoot a bottle rocket out of his anus. Hughes placed the bottle rocket in his anus and lit the fuse, but instead of the rocket launching, it blew up in Hughes’s rectum. The resulting explosion startled Helmburg, who reacted by jumping back and falling off the deck, where he became lodged between the deck and the air conditioning unit.

Helmburg blamed his ensuing injury on the fact that the deck had no railing, even though the deck was three or four feet high. In his negligence lawsuit against Hughes and the fraternity, Helmberg claimed the following: that Hughes’s alcohol consumption led to foolish, dangerous activity; that the fraternity was irresponsible for allowing several underage drinkers, like Hughes, to attend the party; that the fraternity breached its duty to have a safe premises by having an unsafe deck; and that the fraternity failed to properly supervise the activities so that actions like Hughes’s could be prevented. As a result of the defendants’ actions or failure to act, Helmburg claimed to have suffered injuries, pain and suffering, lost time playing for Marshall’s baseball team as a catcher, faces lost earning capacity, and accrued medical bills.

Marshall University was initially added as a defendant in the lawsuit due to its alleged failure to comply with its legal duty to inspect fraternity houses and ensure that they were safe. However, in June 2013, the circuit court judge dismissed Marshall University from the case because Helmburg failed to follow the proper administrative procedures to get the university added. The West Virginia Code required the plaintiff to first provide written notice via certified mail to the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office, stating the claim and the relief sought, at least 30 days before filing the lawsuit.

A settlement between the parties was finally reached in the fall of 2013, and the circuit court dismissed the case in November. It was a quiet end to a rather colorful case, which served as a reminder of how alcohol can make one’s behavior highly unpredictable. In the meantime, if you were injured on someone else’s property and believe that the other party failed to properly inspect and secure it, contact a West Virginia premises liability attorney today to find out what your options are for relief.

The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia attorney, contact us today.

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