’06 party injuries stick frat with suit

Anthony Joseph Whebbe has sued the national chapter of Delta Tau Delta over a 2006 incident he says left him with permanent brain injuries.

Raya Zimmerman

The national chapter of University of Minnesota fraternity Delta Tau Delta is being sued for more than $500,000 over a 2006 incident when a man was “sucker-punched” and knocked unconscious, which he says left him with permanent brain injuries.

Anthony Joseph Whebbe filed suit against Delta Tau Delta International on Nov. 18 for negligence and failure to supervise a party, according to his attorney, Paul Applebaum.

On July 16, 2006, the fraternity threw a party at its 1717 University Ave. S.E. house, which at one point saw roughly 400 people, according to WhebbeâÄôs complaint. The party was a joint birthday party for some of the members and their friends and was open only to guests on a list. The fraternity was not serving alcohol, but guests were allowed to bring their own, according to witness statements.

A group of 10 to 15 men unaffiliated with the fraternity gathered in the back parking lot and a fight broke out at about 2 a.m., according to witness statements.

Fraternity members had complained that a specific group of men was routinely showing up at their parties and causing trouble, a police report said.

Derick James Davis, the sole security officer on duty that night, said in a police report that he turned away the group of men when they tried to enter the party. The group then walked away toward the back parking lot. Fifteen minutes later, Davis was informed of a fight in progress.

Whebbe, 20 years old at the time, was unconscious by the time Davis got to him.

The fraternity filed a response brief, in which it denied each allegation in WhebbeâÄôs complaint.

“The lawâÄôs pretty clear that when you have people that are invited to a party, they have to make it reasonably safe for them, even if itâÄôs a third party that commits a criminal act,” Applebaum said.

According to a police report, Joseph James Abbott, one of WhebbeâÄôs friends present at the scene, saw one of the men push Whebbe. Abbott attempted to hold Whebbe back, saying “itâÄôs not worth it,” and then heard a punch.

Mark Phillip Patterson, a witness at the scene, told police another man punched Whebbe and was “jumping around getting hyper” and was mouthing off to him. “He must have had something to prove,” Patterson said.

The punch caused Whebbe to “fall head-first to the asphalt surface,” according to the lawsuit.

Abbott was about to confront the puncher, but the man who pushed Whebbe lifted up his shirt, brandished a gun and asked, “What are you going to do about it?” Abbott backed away and the men fled the scene. Hennepin County Medical Center paramedics arrived shortly after to take Whebbe to the hospital.

Both the national Delta Tau Delta organization and the president of the UniversityâÄôs chapter declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Corey Coonen, Delta Tau Delta president at the time of the incident, told the Minnesota Daily in 2006 that no fraternity members were involved in the incident. He also claimed the fraternity was immune from legal troubles because it followed the right procedures for hosting a party.

Whebbe remained in a medically induced coma for about a month, Applebaum said.

WhebbeâÄôs injuries were “catastrophic,” Applebaum said. “His family was just devastated by the whole thing.”

Whebbe has had concentration issues and has lost a significant amount of weight, Applebaum said.

Whebbe endured permanent brain injuries, lost earning capacity and suffered “great” physical and mental pain, which Whebbe and Applebaum claim amounts to more than $500,000 in damages, according to the complaint.

According to the allegations, Delta Tau Delta had been unable to control the amount of intoxicated people at previous parties and had had a pattern of insufficient security.

The document said the security officer that night had failed to control the crowd, and that the party had been a “war zone” and the attack on Whebbe “foreseeable.”

Applebaum waited until this month to sue so as to prove the extent and permanence of WhebbeâÄôs injuries.

Applebaum said Whebbe has an idea of who the puncher was, although there isnâÄôt enough information to bring a case against the individual.

A pretrial meeting for both parties has been set at the Minnesota district court on Jan. 13.