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Defendants say Clemson student caused his own death

PICKENS (AP) — Clemson University and members of a fraternity say they are not responsible for the death of a pledge last year.

Multiple media outlets report that the school, three members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, and the national fraternity have denied any responsibility for the Sept. 22 death of Tucker Hipps, 19, blaming Hipps for his death.

Hipps’ parents have filed a pair of $25 million lawsuits, blaming the defendants for their son’s death during an early morning run involving more than two dozen fraternity members or pledges.

An autopsy showed that Hipps died from injuries consistent with having hit rocks in the shallow water near the end of a bridge over Lake Hartwell.

Sigma Phi Epsilon has filed a request to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying its Clemson chapter had been dissolved by the time the lawsuit was filed. But the fraternity also said Hipps’ death was caused by his “voluntarily jumping into the water.”

The university denies the lawsuits’ allegation that the fraternity run violated school policy. Clemson also says it doesn’t know how Tucker died. But the response does say the death resulted from the negligence and/or willfulness of Hipps.

Fraternity members called the campus police that afternoon saying they were looking for Hipps. They said he was last seen lagging behind as he was running across the bridge.

The lawsuits charge that Hipps died after a confrontation about his failure to bring breakfast to the fraternity members that morning. The lawsuits do not say how Hipps left the bridge, or whether he fell, jumped, or was forced. Attorneys for the three fraternity members named in the lawsuit all deny they had anything to do with Hipps ending up in the lake.

The Oconee County sheriff’s department is still investigating the death. No charges have been filed.

The Hipps’ attorney, Druanne White, said none of the responses changed the allegations in the lawsuit. White said the  case is unlikely to be resolved for at least a year.

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