A Narberth couple are blaming members of two Drexel University fraternities and the bar that served some of their members 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 J. McGibbon and his wife, Elizabeth, say their son, Ian, 23, who has had four head surgeries, cannot remember things, does not have use of his left arm, walks with a brace, and tires 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,” Roderick McGibbon said during a news conference at his lawyer’s Center City office, where they announced they had filed suit Thursday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.
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 Pennsylvania State University student who fell down the stairs at an alcohol-fueled fraternity party Feb. 2, was left on a couch, and later died. Fraternity members in that case did not 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 early on 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.
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 Glassboro, N.J., 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 Phi, 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 might have had a concussion and thus he stayed up and tried to keep him awake.
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.”
Officials for the national office of Pi Kappa Phi and Cavanaugh’s River Deck declined comment. Ferro hung up when asked about the lawsuit. Others named as defendants could not be reached.
Drexel, while expressing sympathy for the family, said, “The Drexel Police conducted an investigation, notified the office of the district attorney, and it was determined that no charges would be filed.”
Note: An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect hometown for Nicholas Paoletti based on information contained in the lawsuit that was filed.