Parents sue bar, Drexel frats over son’s brain injury; say no one called 911

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A Narberth couple is blaming members of two Drexel University fraternities and the bar that served some of them for their son’s severe brain injury, sustained after he was punched during an altercation and no one called 911 to get him help for 10 hours.

Roderick “Roddy” J. McGibbon and his wife, Elizabeth, say their son, Ian, 23, who has had four head surgeries, can’t remember things, doesn’t have use of his left arm, walks with a brace and gets tired easily. His parents obtained a court order declaring him “incapacitated” and appointing Roderick McGibbon as his guardian.

“I can’t help but feel if 911 had been called we wouldn’t be sitting here right now,” said Roderick McGibbon during a news conference at his lawyer’s Center City office, where they announced they had filed suit Thursday in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Two large photos of their son, who was not at the news conference, were in the background, one with him smiling, wearing a striped shirt and holding his dog and the other with him unconscious in a hospital bed connected to tubes.

Drexel police investigated and charged no one in the altercation, and the university is not named in the lawsuit though the two fraternities to which the members belong are.

Robert J. Mongeluzzi, the McGibbons’ attorney, said lack of police charges doesn’t excuse the behavior and “that is what juries are for.”

“How many more college students are going to be left abandoned on a couch while their brain swells and their brothers, fraternity, don’t call 911?” Mongeluzzi asked, in apparent reference to the death of Tim Piazza, a Penn State student who fell down the stairs at an alcohol-fueled fraternity party, was left on a couch and later died. Fraternity members in that case didn’t call 911 for nearly 12 hours; 18 have been charged in connection with his death.

“When will it end?” Mongeluzzi asked.

The Drexel incident occurred in the early morning hours of Sept. 12, 2015 between 32nd and 33rd Streets on Powelton Avenue when McGibbon and two fellow members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity were on their way home from a bar. They got into an altercation with members of another fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi. Mongeluzzi acknowledged that versions of what spurred and happened during the altercation differ.

At some point during the fight, McGibbon was punched, fell and struck his head on the cement, rendering him unconscious, Mongeluzzi said. Fraternity members helped him back to the house – lawyers showed video of McGibbon being held up by two men as he walked down the street. He was placed on a couch, the lawyer said. The fraternity’s “risk manager” monitored him for several hours until 6 a.m., then went to sleep, the attorney said. McGibbon, he said, had a bright red bruise on his head and was not making sense when he talked.

Elizabeth McGibbon, tears up at a press conference where she speaks of her son’s brain injury after fraternity members failed to call 911. (MARGO REED / Staff Photographer )

But it wasn’t until noon the next day that McGibbon’s parents, who were concerned that they hadn’t heard from their son, went to the fraternity house, found him “unconscious, nonresponsive and covered in blood and vomit” and called for emergency help, Mongeluzzi said. McGibbon, who lives with his parents, suffered “catastrophic and permanently disabling injuries,” the suit alleges, including “spasticity” of his left arm, “seizure disorder, persistent, disabling headaches, severe concentration difficulties, anxiety, depression and other psychological and emotional injures.”

The McGibbons and their attorney have filed suit against the two Pi Kappa Phi members who helped him back to the house, Nicholas Paoletti, of Perkasie, and Anthony Ferro, of Philadelphia, and the fraternity’s student risk manager, Zachary Young, of Philadelphia. They also are suing Franco Ferraina, of Nazareth, who they allege threw the punch that knocked out McGibbon, and another member of Delta Sigma, Matthew Lamorgese who they say was involved in the altercation.

The two fraternities are named, and so is Cavanaugh’s River Deck, where lawyers say McGibbon and his fellow fraternity members had been drinking.

Mongeluzzi also released records of Drexel’s investigation, including interviews with the fraternity members. According to the documents, Young believed that McGibbon may have had a concussion and that’s why he stayed up and tried to keep him awake.

The suit seeks $50,000 in damages from each party.

Before the injury, the McGibbons said their son, a junior business major at Drexel, was full of life, about to start a co-op internship with an apparel company.

Now, he needs his parents’ help to get in and out of the shower, Roderick McGibbon said.

“He’s afraid to go back to school,” his mother said. “He’s afraid to drive because he knows how limited he is. He’s lonely. Nobody comes around because he’s not the same.”

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