Penn State University is attempting to buy the fraternity house where 19-year-old fraternity pledge Tim Piazza drank heavily and was fatally injured after falling down stairs.
A lawsuit filed with the Centre County in Pennsylvania on Monday, November 19, is asking a court to order the sale of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house to the university.
The lawsuit argues that a deed from 1928 gives Penn State University the right to force the sale of the Beta Theta Pi property and house once it stops being used as a fraternity.
Furthermore, the university has asked that the price is set by an arbitrator or through another court-mandated process. The Beta Theta Pi fraternity has reportedly disputed whether the school it has the legal right to force the house’s sale.
A spokesman for Penn State University said that if the lawsuit is successful, the university wants to use the property for a “positive purpose” that has not been determined at this time. The spokesperson did say that the property will not be used as a fraternity or sorority house.
The university’s lawsuit isn’t the only involving the property. Beta alumnus Don Abbey filed a suit last year against the alumni corporation, claiming he is owed nearly $10 million he loaned for renovations, repairs and operations for the house. He says that per a funding agreement, the money had to be repaid if Alpha Upsilon ceased to be an active chapter of Beta Theta Pi.
Attorneys for the chapter have said in filings that the only significant asset it has is the house, and that if judgment were awarded in Abbey’s favor it would essentially give him control of the property. The chapter contends the money was a gift, not a loan, and that it did not sign off on the funding agreement Abbey cites. That case is still heading toward trial.
The move from the university for the Beta house comes almost exactly 10 years after it filed a similar lawsuit to regain control of another fraternity property. In November 2008, Penn State went to court seeking to force the sale of the Phi Delta Theta house.
Speaking to The Morning Call, Tom Kline, a lawyer for Piazza’s parents, said that the lawsuit an” encouraging development”:
“With Beta forever banned from Penn State, this structure rightfully belongs in the hands of Penn State to put it to a proper educational use which advances the purposes of the university,” Kline said.