Megan Helal was a 19-year-old freshman at Navarro College. She went to visit her boyfriend at Baylor University in Texas. The two attended a Sigma Chi Fraternity party at a local bar in honor of new inductees to the fraternity. At the party, bar owners allowed the set-up of a bottle service where Megan, a minor, was served between 10-17 mixed vodka drinks within a two-hour period. Megan was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor of her boyfriend’s apartment the next morning; she later died at the hospital.
Medical officials performed an autopsy in an attempt to determine her cause of death. Autopsy results ruled Megan died of natural causes. Tests show that Megan suffered from a heart condition, which was the cause of her death. However, Megan’s parents filed a wrongful death suit just two days prior to the tolling of the statute of limitations, naming the Sigma Chi Fraternity organization, the group’s chapter at Baylor University and the owners of the bar where Megan was served alcohol.
Documents filed in the case point to negligence on the part of the bar owners as the cause of Megan’s death. Megan’s parents, as plaintiffs in the matter, assert that the owners of the bar were negligent for serving Megan alcohol even though she was a minor, and for continuing to serve her alcohol even when she was obviously intoxicated.
In order to prove a claim for negligence, Megan’s parents may have to show that the bar owners had a duty, and that serving Megan alcohol was a breach of that duty. But just proving the bar owners had a duty to not serve Megan or continue to serve her after she was intoxicated is not enough. Plaintiffs have the burden of showing that the breach of this duty, not the heart condition, was the cause of Megan’s death.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Megan Helal’s Parents File Lawsuit For Baylor Fraternity Wrongful Death,” Tyler KingKade, 3/20/12.