Parents sue Notre Dame University after freshman son falls 30 feet over stairwell balcony at ‘quasi-fraternity’ dorm party

A Notre Dame University freshman suffered a catastrophic brain injury when he fell over a stairwell balcony during an alcohol-fueled “quasi-fraternity” dorm party – and now his parents are suing.

Sean Tennant was just starting his second semester at the elite school in January 2019 when he toppled over a second-story railing in Sorin Hall and plunged 30 feet to the basement’s concrete floor below, the negligence lawsuit filed Tuesday states.

Tennant suffered a depressed skull fracture and brain hemorrhage and now lives with decreased cognitive function and disabilities that limit his ability to walk, eat, bathe, socialize and generally care for himself, the filing obtained by the Daily News alleges.

According to the complaint, Notre Dame “actively encouraged a quasi-fraternity atmosphere amongst the student-residents of Sorin Hall and other residence halls” leading up to the tragedy.

“This atmosphere is actively promoted and encouraged by defendant, given the fact that Notre Dame has no fraternity or sorority presence on campus,” the filing states.

Tennant’s parents claim Sorin Hall’s rector was not present on the night of the party, despite knowing about the festivities, and that the stairwell and balcony railings inside the dorm were “not maintained to current building code” and not updated to incorporate modern safeguards.

Attempts to reach a spokesperson for the university were not immediately successful Tuesday evening.

The lawsuit filed in St. Joseph Circuit Court in Indiana also highlighted a recent article in Notre Dame Magazine that said Sorin Hall has had a longstanding reputation for being a “carnival funhouse” where drinking was common.

“This is a dorm where both students of drinking age and students below it live together. It is seemingly promoted as a fraternity with drinking and partying, and if you’re going to allow that – if you’re going to have students of both ages together – you have to have adequate policies and procedures in place to control the use of alcohol,” Tennant family lawyer Peter Flowers told The News.

“He’s a great kid,” Flowers said of Sean. “He was an architectural major just beginning his second semester. He had lots of dreams and hopes for his life, and now he has a catastrophic brain injury.”


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