Delores Forest and Jeffrey Bordeaux, Sr., the parents of Jeffrey Bordeaux, Jr., filed a $24 million civil lawsuit against UR, Delta Upsilon (DU) and former UR student Daren Venable on Tuesday, Nov. 27 on their own behalf and on the behalf of Bordeaux, Jr.’s estate.
Bordeaux, Jr. was fatally stabbed by Venable after he displayed what was reported as aggressive behavior toward Venable at party held in the DU fraternity house on Jan. 15, 2011. Bordeaux, Jr. and Venable were both juniors at UR at the time of the incident. Judge John L. DeMarco found Venable not guilty on a charge of murder in the second degree on the grounds of self-defense on April 21, 2011.
Now, nearly two years later, the lawsuit claims that UR “acted negligently and deviated from reasonable standards of care.” Furthermore, it notes that DU “behaved in a negligent manner,” which, along with UR’s inaction, in part led to the death of Bordeaux, Jr. and subsequent injuries to his estate and to his parents. It also notes that in stabbing Bordeaux, Jr. Venable “caused his wrongful death in a manner contrary to the law” and that because of the tragedy, his estate “has been deprived of his projected and expected lifetime earnings” and that his parents have been “deprived of the companionship of their son and suffered substantial emotional anguish and loss.”
Despite the fact that Venable was found not guilty in the April 2011 trial, he can still be tried in a civil case.
The lawsuit explains that UR failed to ensure that underage drinking did not occur on campus and went on to note that underage drinking remains prevalent at the University. It also points out that although Venable wrote in his admissions application that he had been suspended from school for one week for being in possession of a Swiss Army Knife his grandfather had given him, no one commented on this fact during the admissions process. Additionally, it said that although Venable had a habit of carrying a knife at UR, contrary to University regulations, no one tried to prevent it.
The lawsuit goes on to note that UR Security did not “exercise reasonable care and diligence” by failing to make periodic checks on the party at which the incident occurred, which also could have prevented underage drinking which, the lawsuit explains, in part contributed to Bordeaux, Jr.’s death.
UR President Joel Seligman sent a statement to the University community addressing the lawsuit on Thursday, Nov. 29.
“This was a terrible and painful tragedy that forever altered the lives of the Bordeaux and Venable families,” he wrote. “As a University, we must always keep in our thoughts these two Rochester students, while also being mindful of how the University moves forward for the better following an incident such as this.”
Seligman also noted in the message that “University counsel will carefully review the lawsuit.”
Following the events of Jan. 15, 2011, the University conducted its own investigation into the incident and the subsequent report was released on July 27, 2011. The report concluded that Bordeaux, Jr.’s death “was not something that the University could have foreseen or prevented with the information it possessed at the time” and that it responded in a manner consistent with established policies for dealing with an emergency. The report also outlined 23 recommendations that provide additional steps the University can take to make UR an increasingly safer environment in the future. Some, such as the recommendation that a graduate student be placed in all University housing that did not already have a Residential Life representative, including fraternity houses on campus, have already been adopted.
“The University appropriately responded to this tragic event by conducting a comprehensive investigation,” University Spokeswoman Sara Miller said. “It was the conclusion of that investigation that the death of Jeffrey Bordeaux was neither predictable nor preventable.”
She went on to explain that “the University understands that the Bordeaux family is grieving for the loss of their son, and respects their right to file a lawsuit.”
DU, the lawsuit also noted, did not abide by University regulations and allowed for underage drinking to occur on its premises.
DU International Fraternity Executive Director Justin Kirk said that although the fraternity is “aware of the recent news articles regarding a lawsuit,” he could not “comment on potential, or pending, litigation.” President of UR’S DU chapter and junior Alberto Sepulveda also declined to comment, due to the pending lawsuit.
Of the $24 million, the lawsuit seeks $6 million for each parent and $12 million for the estate.
“When you lose your child it’s a traumatic experience,” Michael Sussman, a lawyer in Goshen, N.Y. who is representing Forest and Bordeaux, Sr., said. “You deserve compensation — that’s what the legal system does.”
He explained that the exact amount of money the lawsuit asks for is not necessarily relevant right now and that the jury will ultimately determine the exact amount. He stressed that the most important thing is that the Bordeauxs are entitled to their time in court.
A trial date has not yet been set and it could be up to 18 to 24 months until the case goes to court, according to Sussman.
Goldin is a member of the class of 2013.