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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Elks, Spaghetti, a Jump, a Lawsuit

BEAUFORT, S.C. (CN) - A woman sued the largest predominantly black fraternal organization in the hemisphere, the Order of Elks, claiming she broke her ankle in an initiation at which members blindfolded her, threw cooked spaghetti at her and made her jump over a pan of water.

Mary Ann Doctor sued the Improved Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks of the World, its Beaufort, S.C. chapter and its employee Estella Brown, in the Beaufort County Court of Common Pleas.

Founded in 1898 in Cincinnati, the Order of the Elks has more than 450,000 members in the United States, Canada, Mexico, West Indies, Panama and the Bahamas.

Doctor says that in January 2010 she was invited to the organization's Beaufort, S.C. lodge to be initiated into the order.

"(O)nce inside the lodge, one of the members, agents, and/or employees of the lodge made plaintiff remove her shoes and wear a blindfold that completely obscured her vision," the complaint states.

It adds: "That after being made barefoot and blindfolded, defendant Estella Brown took charge of and led plaintiff in a circle around a large room while members, agents, and/or employees of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World SJ Bampfield Lodge 5 threw cooked spaghetti noodles at her.

"That Defendant Estella Brown, who knew there was a pan of water directly in front of plaintiff continued to lead plaintiff in the initiation ritual and told plaintiff to jump.

"That while landing from her jump, defendant Estella Brown failed to assist and secure plaintiff, causing her to slip on the pan of water in front of her, causing her ankle to break."

Doctor, who says she was "in the absolute care of defendants while blindfolded," seeks compensatory and punitive damages for negligence and negligent supervision.

She says the incident caused her "severe injury and distress", physical discomfort, pain and medical expenses.

She is represented by Francis J. Cornely of Charleston.

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