Lawsuit over Gordie Bailey’s death in CU frat settled
Lawsuit over Gordie Bailey’s death in CU frat settled

BOULDER, Colo. –

The mother of Gordie Bailey, a University of Colorado student who died of alcohol poisoning following a fraternity ritual in 2004, has settled a lawsuit out of court that will bring reforms to Chi Psi chapters nationwide.

The suit was scheduled to go to trial this week. But Bruce Jones â the Denver attorney representing Bailey’s mother, Leslie Lanahan â said the settlement with Chi Psi and the Alpha Psi Delta corporation was a better alternative because it will lead to safer fraternities.

“You can go to trial,” Jones said. “You can get a jury verdict … but a jury can only award damages. A jury can’t say you need to make this change in your procedures. And that was a motivating factor for the Lanahans all along.”

Jones said Chi Psi agreed to have live-in adult advisers in any future fraternity homes that they build or buy. All chapters will have live-in house advisers by 2010.

Leaders of each chapter will also sign contracts that they understand the consequences of underage drinking, hazing and alcohol poisoning. Also, adults will be present at pledging events and ceremonies, and fraternity leaders will be trained to recognize signs that members might have problems with drinking, Jones said.

Financial details of the settlement are confidential, but the Colorado Supreme Court last year set $341,250 as the maximum amount Lanahan could get if she were to win in court.

Michael Lanahan, Bailey’s stepfather, said Tuesday that the money will go to the Gordie Foundation to provide “young people with the skills to navigate the dangers of alcohol, binge drinking, peer pressure and hazing.”

“This has never been about money for us,” Lanahan said from his Texas home. “What we really wanted was for Chi Psi to make changes and hopefully be a beacon of hope for other pledges and their families and maybe show some leadership in the whole Greek system.”

Directors from Chi Psi’s national office could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Fraternity members found Bailey’s body in the library of Chi Psi’s Boulder mansion on the morning of Sept. 17, 2004. The freshman from Dallas had been left to sleep off his drunkenness after he and other pledges downed whiskey and wine at a campsite near Gold Hill during an initiation.

The fraternity’s Boulder chapter closed following Bailey’s death, and is listed as “dormant” on Chi Psi’s Web site. There are 31 active chapters across the country, according to the site.

The settlement also acknowledges that Chi Psi brothers hazed Bailey leading up to his death, an admission that the Lanahans have sought since their son’s death.

Lanahan alleged in her lawsuit that Bailey and other pledges were “forced to drink large amounts of alcohol,” and the defendants then left a “dangerously intoxicated” Bailey on a couch with a bucket. The lawsuit alleges the defendants chose not to call paramedics until the next day, after Bailey had died.

“Instead, they and other Chi Psi members continued to party, during which time they wrote offensive and derogatory remarks on Bailey’s body,” Lanahan’s attorneys wrote in the civil complaint.

The Interfraternity Council at CU lost its affiliation with the university following Bailey’s death after refusing to sign on to a series of reforms put forward by administrators. Among the deal-breakers for the chapters were demands that recruitment be delayed until the spring semester and that each house have a live-in adviser.

The Denver Post contributed to this report.

Archived comments

Sure, it’s always someone else’s faulty when people drink themselves to death.


3/17/2009 2:48:46 PM

Guapo, when you’re young and following directions of “experts” (“these frat boys have done this TONS of times…”, “no one has ever gotten hurt…”, “they’re kind of in charge of this initiation process…”, “they must know what they’re doing…”) and don’t have experience with how much is too much, it can happen easier than you think. We can watch out for our younger pledges’ wellbeing, or at least not encourage deadly behavior.


3/17/2009 3:08:38 PM

So 18-yr-old “adults” shouldn’t be treated like, or have the responsibilities of, adults?

So much for lowering the legal drinking age, eh?


3/17/2009 3:16:59 PM

Why does someone need money that doesn’t bring back their son?What’s the money for?


3/17/2009 3:37:20 PM

What’s the money for?

Punishment, for allowing it to happen, also a deterrent, so they do not allow it to happen again.


3/17/2009 3:48:52 PM

How much did the lawyer get? I bet more than half.


3/17/2009 3:49:04 PM

Also, lost potential earnings of the deceased, ect.


3/17/2009 3:50:07 PM

The1 – Usually an attorney will take this type of case on a contingency fee.Usually 1/3 of any judgment.


3/17/2009 3:52:22 PM

Why does Mama get money because she raised an idiot? He was a big boy.

Perhaps she could use that money and donate it to A.A. or something.


3/17/2009 4:18:35 PM

I am a current student at CU and these are some examples of recent “hazing” rituals at the campus’ frat houses:

Pledge gets locked in a closet with a bottle of alcohol, and cannot exit the closet until the bottle has been finished.

Pledge is put in a dog kennel, verbally harassed and eventually pissed on.

The greek system at this school is out of hand.Not only are there numerous rapes, consumption of every dangerous drug known to man but even the taking of human lives.There is a difference between right-of-passage rituals in good fun and flat out stupidity.I do not believe for a second this was Gordie Bailey’s fault.Anybody who thinks so ought to be ashamed of themselves.


3/17/2009 4:50:52 PM

Until we teach our children how to hold their liquor, tragedies like this will keep occuring.


3/17/2009 4:52:18 PM

“Greek System” = Human Darwinism in action

Stupid is as stupid does.

— F. Gump


3/17/2009 5:47:36 PM

This was my biggest fear when I was president of my house.We were self insured, so, if there had been incident, I would have been screwed!Everyone from the school to the my fraternities national headquarters would have blamed me and hung me out to dry.

Knucklehead should never have allowed himself to drink that much.More importantly, his future fraternity brothers had a duty to look out for and take care of these pledges.A task in which they failed miserably.

The Greek system does have some advantages over non-Greek students.I’m not talking about social aspects.The Greek population has a significantly higher graduation rate than that of non-Greek students.

“I do not believe for a second this was Gordie Bailey’s fault. Anybody who thinks so ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

So was he a man, or, a child who shouldn’t have been here?No one put a gun to his head and said drink!

This was so tragic because ultimately all he had to do was say no!I’m not saying it would be easy to do that, but, if push came to shove, he should have just plain left the house and never went back.


3/17/2009 7:16:47 PM

“the Colorado Supreme Court last year set $341,250 as the maximum amount Lanahan could get if she were to win in court.”

WTF?!!Sure would be nice to have some detail on what this court-imposed maximum is all about and how they arrived at this figure.


3/17/2009 11:15:17 PM

“I have the right to smoke a cigarette outside any time I want! “

Wrong again, addict.

There is no right to smoke in public, never was, never will be.


3/17/2009 11:47:04 PM

What Uriah, couldn’t get elected Dog Catcher, or any thing else?



3/17/2009 10:59:28 PM

Uriah – Nice childish reply, keep it up.

Here is one for you –

I have the right to smoke a cigarette outside any time I want!Always have always will!


3/17/2009 10:57:36 PM

“This was my biggest fear when I was president of my house”


Why … oh why … it is not surprising that you were a frat-boi fool ?



3/17/2009 9:35:03 PM

This is horrible..

This would of never happened if he would of went to Aurora campus in downtown Denver and was drinking on Colfax ave.

Greeks, I’m surprised they didn’t molest him when he was unconscious.


3/18/2009 8:02:41 AM

If the drinking age was 18 Gordie would probably still be alive today.


3/18/2009 10:17:57 AM

I seem to remember reading a while ago that this kid had been taking a bunch of painkillers earlier in the day.Anyone familiar with the case care to shed some light on this?


3/18/2009 10:54:36 AM

Damn, you speak the truth about who was at fault and it gets removed.Nice lack of standards.


3/18/2009 11:06:09 AM

3.2 beer allowed teenagers to learn to drink without binge drinking. Try the Hill on Friday and Sat.nights and see hundreds of students wandering around with nothing to do and no place to go.The Tule provided a place you could buy a pitcher dance or hear music for hours. Now the kids go to house parties with hard liquor the results of which cause the police to be called, a mess on Sunday morning and unhappy neighbors. Want to know why 10,000 students show up to smoke pot on Farrand? Because it is the university wide substitute for 3.2 beer. Finally, the lack of education on how to handle drinking provided by 3.2 beer leads to the trajedy above.

3/18/2009 12:01:54 PM

Adult? John Belushi was an “adult” in Animal House.What’s going to change is N O T H I N G.


3/18/2009 7:08:22 PM