On November 23, 2022, the parents of Katie Meyer, a student at Stanford University, filed a wrongful death lawsuit, survival action, and negligent infliction of emotional distress claim against Stanford’s board of trustees, including the president, associate deans Lisa Caldera, and many others.
Let’s explore the details of the lawsuit with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.
According to the wrongful death lawsuit against Stanford filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, the University administrators sent a disciplinary action letter to Katie Meyer, a 22-year-old Stanford University student, that caused her distress, eventually leading to her suicide.
The lawsuit alleges that the five-page disciplinary letter sent by Stanford’s Office of Community Standards was a form of institutional bullying. The University sent the letter after Meyers spilled coffee on a Stanford football player for allegedly raping a minor on her soccer team.
According to the lawsuit, the incident happened in 2021, and the University failed to take any action against the football player but instead sent Meyer a disciplinary action letter. The letter outlined removing Meyer from the soccer team and placing her degree on hold. Meyer responded to the letter via email, stating she was distraught.
The complaint further stated that the University failed to follow up with Katie Meyer after she expressed how distraught she was following the disciplinary action email. It explained how Stanford employees did not reply to Katie’s email about her acute stress reaction that impulsively led to her suicide.
Stanford spokesperson, Dee Mostofi, denied any responsibility on behalf of the University and said that the educational institution continues to grieve Katie’s tragic death. Although the University did not review the details of the lawsuit, Mostofi, in a statement, wrote that the allegations are baseless and false.
The statement alleges that the University told Meyer they would be deciding the action on the spilled coffee incident that resulted in injuries to the football player. It stated that the University offered Katie a support person to guide her through the disciplinary process.
In response to the alleged sexual assault, the University reported the incident to the relevant department, which moved against investigations since it was just an “unwanted kiss.”
According to the Meyer family’s attorney, Kim Dougherty, the University acted recklessly throughout the disciplinary process. The lawsuit aims to provide justice to the Meyer family and seeks to bring a change in the University’s policies that would help protect the students and safeguard those requiring support.
Dougherty stated that the University’s disciplinary process was overly punitive and did not change even though it was harmful to the students.
The family reported that Meyer was in great spirits before receiving the letter and wanted to study law at Stanford Law School. Her family now seeks damages for Meyer’s death, attorney’s fee, and funeral expenses.
Although the family of Katie Meyer sues over her death, such cases are often challenging to fight in court, especially when it involves negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Katie Meyer’s family or their attorney must prove the following elements of survival action:
Although Meyer spilled coffee on the football player, she still had a right to receive support and a proper investigation into the rape incident. However, the University labeled it an “unwanted kiss” and decided to put Meyer’s future on the line for the incident, which caused Katie severe emotional distress before her suicide.
According to BrainsWay and many studies, there are 1,100 suicides in US colleges annually, making it a second-leading cause of death among US college students.
Katie Meyer’s death is the 4th suicide incident in the last 13 months at Stanford University, leading many to believe that the University’s policies or lack of student support may be the underlying problem. It would be up to the family’s attorney and their expertise to prove the University’s negligence and hold them accountable.
Although the Stanford community continues to grieve Katie’s passing, it won’t bring her back, nor will it bring any other students back. If you lost a loved one due to another’s negligence, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation to learn more about your rights and legal options.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.