(CN) – A fraternity is not responsible for the death of a Cornell University sophomore who got drunk and fell 80 feet into a gorge, an appellate division of the New York Supreme Court ruled.
Scot Elwood and a friend were looking for a party to attend when they came upon the Alpha Sigma Phi house. No party was taking place, so they walked behind the house.
Elwood traversed a 5-foot split-rail fence and fell into the gorge. He had a blood-alcohol content of .26.
Elwood’s mother sued the fraternity for wrongful death, claiming that it failed to warn and guard people from falling into the gorge.
The fraternity asked the trial court to dismiss the case, because Elwood was a drunken trespasser and the gorge was “an open and obvious” natural hazard.
The trial court denied the fraternity’s motion for dismissal, but Judge Rose of the Albany-based appellate division reversed the decision and dismissed the case.
“We find no record evidence that it was foreseeable that decedent would trespass on defendant’s private property, cross to the far side of the fence, and fall into the gorge.”