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Family sues Stanford University, fraternity over son's fentanyl death

Lawsuit points to 'a culture of drug and alcohol abuse' on campus

The family of a Stanford University student who died of an accidental drug overdose has filed a lawsuit against the university. Embarcadero Media file photo by Sinead Chang.

The family of a Stanford University student who died from an accidental fentanyl overdose in January 2020 has filed a lawsuit against the university and against the fraternity to which he belonged, according to a Santa Clara County Superior Court filing.

The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 1, 2021, by deceased student Eitan Weiner's parents, Amir Weiner and Julia Erwin-Weiner, and his sister, Ya'el Weiner. Defendant names in the suit include Leland Stanford Junior University, Theta Delta Chi Founders' Corporation, alleged drug dealer Matthew Ming Carpenter and students Cole Weston Dill-De Sa, Muhammad Yusuf Khattak and William Corbitt Mitchell.

Weiner's parents are both employed at Stanford. Amir Weiner is an associate professor in the Department of History; Julia Erwin-Weiner is the associate vice president for medical center development at Stanford University. Ya'el Weiner, earned her undergraduate degree at Stanford in 2019, according to the lawsuit.

The 28-page wrongful-death lawsuit claims that if Stanford and Theta Delta Chi had followed their own policies and procedures and intervened when Weiner, 19, had suffered a first accidental drug overdose two days before his death, he would still be alive today. Key university and fraternity officials didn't safeguard the health and welfare of students; the university allowed the Theta Delta Chi fraternity's Eta Deuteron chapter to continue to operate on campus despite alleged continuous violations of the university's policies, the lawsuit claims.

Weiner's body was found by a janitor in a bathroom stall at the Theta Delta Chi/Eta Deuteron fraternity house, then located at 675 Lomita Dr., on Jan. 17. 2020. He died from an accidental drug overdose of counterfeit percocet and blunt-force trauma to his head, the coroner found.

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The lawsuit noted that Stanford gave the fraternity multiple "second chances" that allowed the illegal and dangerous conduct to continue for five years, leading to Weiner's death.

"This case highlights the yawning gap between Stanford and Theta Delta Chi's written policies and the actions these institutions take to enforce their policies. But it also underscores the dangers that both the university and the fraternity are ignoring by underplaying and condoning the use and abuse of drugs on campus and within the fraternity/sorority system," the lawsuit claims.

Student defendants Dill-De Sa, Mitchell and Khattak are accused of aiding and abetting Carpenter in purchasing, distributing and furnishing the controlled substance that resulted in Weiner's death. Carpenter, then a student at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, was arrested in August on a warrant from Santa Clara County on charges arising from allegedly selling the counterfeit percocet that resulted in Weiner's death.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office had given multiple warnings that counterfeit percocet posed a danger on campus as far back as September 2019. The DA's Office issued warnings on Sept. 10 and 24, 2019, that a large number of counterfeit 30-mg. pills contained fentanyl – not oxycodone hydrochloride, the drug in percocet – and was causing deaths. Stanford allegedly didn't widely and effectively distribute warnings, the lawsuit claims.

On Jan. 15, 2020, Stanford and Theta Delta Chi knew that one of its students, Weiner, had come into contact with a potentially lethal substance. He survived, yet the university and the fraternity took no action, according to the lawsuit. Stanford knew it had a problem with drugs on campus, and that it had an acute problem with drug use among members of the Greek fraternity/sorority community.

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Stanford also wasn't following its own well-established rules, according to the lawsuit. Since 1896, the university has had a "fundamental standard" regulating student conduct and behavior, but it failed to discipline "acts of misconduct" outlined under its policies and standards related to drug-related activity, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit cites multiple examples of what it called "a culture of drug and alcohol abuse" on the Stanford campus. A 2019 survey of more than 1,500 undergraduate students found that roughly half said they consumed alcohol on three or more days during the prior 30 days. Many said they drank in a way that put them at risk for negative outcomes and they typically drank in campus residences. Regarding drug use, 12% said they used drugs other than marijuana and nicotine, such as opiates or opioids like vicodin and oxycontin. About 21% of students who belong to Greek fraternities and sororities said they used drugs other than alcohol, nicotine and marijuana.

Theta Delta Chi had a known serious drug and alcohol problem that violated Stanford's policies, the lawsuit claims. One year prior to Weiner's death, The Stanford Daily reported that Theta Delta Chi was going to lose its on-campus status at the end of the academic year due to longstanding concerns about alcohol consumption.

On Jan. 18, 2019, after multiple warnings over a three-year period, the fraternity was informed it was losing its housing.

But Stanford relented. It cited a "flaw in the procedural guidelines," which had led to removing the fraternity from its campus, according to a letter cited in the lawsuit by Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice president for student affairs. She rescinded the banishment.

Nearly a year to the day, Weiner had his first overdose. On Jan. 15, 2020, he received a package at the fraternity house that contained a bottle of percocet that he, Dill-De Sa, Khattak and Mitchell purchased from Carpenter. Early that evening, the fraternity's resident assistant, or RA, learned that Weiner had lost speaking and motor functions, both symptoms of fentanyl overdose. The RA contacted Stanford's residence dean and reported the symptoms. The residence dean directed the RA to call 9-1-1, but didn't take any other actions, instead suggesting the RA call the "on call" residence dean, according to the lawsuit.

Weiner declined medical assistance from paramedics.The other three students allegedly concealed the evidence and misled the first responders about the controlled substances within the fraternity house. Stanford did not take further action, the lawsuit claims.

Theta Delta Chi, a Massachusetts corporation, also has its own alcohol and drug policy, including that any illegal drugs or controlled substances at a fraternity event is strictly prohibited. Possession, sale and use of any illegal substance by any member can cause expulsion from the fraternity. It also outlines a crisis plan. Chapter members in charge are to contact "proper authorities" and to shutter the residence to outsiders in the event of an incident.

Additionally, they are to contact high-ranking members within the fraternity, including the chapter adviser, an alum or house corporation president and others. The fraternity didn't take any action after Weiner's first drug overdose, however, the lawsuit claims.

Weiner's recovery from his Jan. 15 overdose was brief. He died two days later from a second overdose of the fentanyl-laced pills. Even after police discovered the pills, the fraternity and Stanford didn't take any action to shutter the fraternity house, according to the lawsuit.

On March 22, 2021, more than a year after Weiner's death, Stanford publicly announced the fraternity would lose its university recognition for six years.

Carpenter, who is alleged to have sold the drugs to a number of students, allegedly purchased the drugs on the "dark web," a part of the internet that isn't indexed and allows for anonymizing activities. He is scheduled to enter a plea on Jan. 27 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

In a statement, Stanford said it was saddened to receive the news of the lawsuit.

"Our community continues to mourn Eitan’s tragic death in January 2020, and we have great sympathy for his family and those affected by his death.

"Out of respect for Eitan’s parents, who are valued employees, the university is not addressing the specifics of each claim in the lawsuit nor elaborating on the chain of events that occurred. However, the university disagrees with many of the allegations in the complaint and will defend itself against the lawsuit," the university said. "In our community, there is nothing worse than the death of a student. It is a devastating occurrence that profoundly affects us all. However, criticisms of the actions of our professional staff, in this case, are unfounded; their actions were timely and reasonable based on the information they had at the time. In addition, it is not accurate that Stanford failed to take appropriate actions following Eitan’s death."

The university said it undertook a comprehensive investigation and removed Theta Delta Chi from campus. Whether and when the fraternity would be allowed back and under what conditions will depend on any information that night comes out of the criminal proceedings against Carpenter.

The university said it did send warnings to its community about the dangerous drug in 2019 and after Weiner's death. The university has had a longstanding drug-and-alcohol-education prevention program that all students are required to take prior to matriculation. The university has started a naloxone (Narcan) and opioid-training program Santa Clara County’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Project curriculum, which trained nearly 300 student resident assistance and Greek chapter leaders. Naxolone is a medication that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose.

The university's drug and alcohol policies include Good Samaritan provisions to encourage students who witness dangerous situations with alcohol and drugs to seek help without fear of disciplinary action.

In December, Stanford announced it has contracted with outside experts to conduct an external review of its approaches to alcohol and drug use to improve its effectiveness, the university said.

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Family sues Stanford University, fraternity over son's fentanyl death

Lawsuit points to 'a culture of drug and alcohol abuse' on campus

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Jan 21, 2022, 8:13 pm

The family of a Stanford University student who died from an accidental fentanyl overdose in January 2020 has filed a lawsuit against the university and against the fraternity to which he belonged, according to a Santa Clara County Superior Court filing.

The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 1, 2021, by deceased student Eitan Weiner's parents, Amir Weiner and Julia Erwin-Weiner, and his sister, Ya'el Weiner. Defendant names in the suit include Leland Stanford Junior University, Theta Delta Chi Founders' Corporation, alleged drug dealer Matthew Ming Carpenter and students Cole Weston Dill-De Sa, Muhammad Yusuf Khattak and William Corbitt Mitchell.

Weiner's parents are both employed at Stanford. Amir Weiner is an associate professor in the Department of History; Julia Erwin-Weiner is the associate vice president for medical center development at Stanford University. Ya'el Weiner, earned her undergraduate degree at Stanford in 2019, according to the lawsuit.

The 28-page wrongful-death lawsuit claims that if Stanford and Theta Delta Chi had followed their own policies and procedures and intervened when Weiner, 19, had suffered a first accidental drug overdose two days before his death, he would still be alive today. Key university and fraternity officials didn't safeguard the health and welfare of students; the university allowed the Theta Delta Chi fraternity's Eta Deuteron chapter to continue to operate on campus despite alleged continuous violations of the university's policies, the lawsuit claims.

Weiner's body was found by a janitor in a bathroom stall at the Theta Delta Chi/Eta Deuteron fraternity house, then located at 675 Lomita Dr., on Jan. 17. 2020. He died from an accidental drug overdose of counterfeit percocet and blunt-force trauma to his head, the coroner found.

The lawsuit noted that Stanford gave the fraternity multiple "second chances" that allowed the illegal and dangerous conduct to continue for five years, leading to Weiner's death.

"This case highlights the yawning gap between Stanford and Theta Delta Chi's written policies and the actions these institutions take to enforce their policies. But it also underscores the dangers that both the university and the fraternity are ignoring by underplaying and condoning the use and abuse of drugs on campus and within the fraternity/sorority system," the lawsuit claims.

Student defendants Dill-De Sa, Mitchell and Khattak are accused of aiding and abetting Carpenter in purchasing, distributing and furnishing the controlled substance that resulted in Weiner's death. Carpenter, then a student at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, was arrested in August on a warrant from Santa Clara County on charges arising from allegedly selling the counterfeit percocet that resulted in Weiner's death.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office had given multiple warnings that counterfeit percocet posed a danger on campus as far back as September 2019. The DA's Office issued warnings on Sept. 10 and 24, 2019, that a large number of counterfeit 30-mg. pills contained fentanyl – not oxycodone hydrochloride, the drug in percocet – and was causing deaths. Stanford allegedly didn't widely and effectively distribute warnings, the lawsuit claims.

On Jan. 15, 2020, Stanford and Theta Delta Chi knew that one of its students, Weiner, had come into contact with a potentially lethal substance. He survived, yet the university and the fraternity took no action, according to the lawsuit. Stanford knew it had a problem with drugs on campus, and that it had an acute problem with drug use among members of the Greek fraternity/sorority community.

Stanford also wasn't following its own well-established rules, according to the lawsuit. Since 1896, the university has had a "fundamental standard" regulating student conduct and behavior, but it failed to discipline "acts of misconduct" outlined under its policies and standards related to drug-related activity, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit cites multiple examples of what it called "a culture of drug and alcohol abuse" on the Stanford campus. A 2019 survey of more than 1,500 undergraduate students found that roughly half said they consumed alcohol on three or more days during the prior 30 days. Many said they drank in a way that put them at risk for negative outcomes and they typically drank in campus residences. Regarding drug use, 12% said they used drugs other than marijuana and nicotine, such as opiates or opioids like vicodin and oxycontin. About 21% of students who belong to Greek fraternities and sororities said they used drugs other than alcohol, nicotine and marijuana.

Theta Delta Chi had a known serious drug and alcohol problem that violated Stanford's policies, the lawsuit claims. One year prior to Weiner's death, The Stanford Daily reported that Theta Delta Chi was going to lose its on-campus status at the end of the academic year due to longstanding concerns about alcohol consumption.

On Jan. 18, 2019, after multiple warnings over a three-year period, the fraternity was informed it was losing its housing.

But Stanford relented. It cited a "flaw in the procedural guidelines," which had led to removing the fraternity from its campus, according to a letter cited in the lawsuit by Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice president for student affairs. She rescinded the banishment.

Nearly a year to the day, Weiner had his first overdose. On Jan. 15, 2020, he received a package at the fraternity house that contained a bottle of percocet that he, Dill-De Sa, Khattak and Mitchell purchased from Carpenter. Early that evening, the fraternity's resident assistant, or RA, learned that Weiner had lost speaking and motor functions, both symptoms of fentanyl overdose. The RA contacted Stanford's residence dean and reported the symptoms. The residence dean directed the RA to call 9-1-1, but didn't take any other actions, instead suggesting the RA call the "on call" residence dean, according to the lawsuit.

Weiner declined medical assistance from paramedics.The other three students allegedly concealed the evidence and misled the first responders about the controlled substances within the fraternity house. Stanford did not take further action, the lawsuit claims.

Theta Delta Chi, a Massachusetts corporation, also has its own alcohol and drug policy, including that any illegal drugs or controlled substances at a fraternity event is strictly prohibited. Possession, sale and use of any illegal substance by any member can cause expulsion from the fraternity. It also outlines a crisis plan. Chapter members in charge are to contact "proper authorities" and to shutter the residence to outsiders in the event of an incident.

Additionally, they are to contact high-ranking members within the fraternity, including the chapter adviser, an alum or house corporation president and others. The fraternity didn't take any action after Weiner's first drug overdose, however, the lawsuit claims.

Weiner's recovery from his Jan. 15 overdose was brief. He died two days later from a second overdose of the fentanyl-laced pills. Even after police discovered the pills, the fraternity and Stanford didn't take any action to shutter the fraternity house, according to the lawsuit.

On March 22, 2021, more than a year after Weiner's death, Stanford publicly announced the fraternity would lose its university recognition for six years.

Carpenter, who is alleged to have sold the drugs to a number of students, allegedly purchased the drugs on the "dark web," a part of the internet that isn't indexed and allows for anonymizing activities. He is scheduled to enter a plea on Jan. 27 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

In a statement, Stanford said it was saddened to receive the news of the lawsuit.

"Our community continues to mourn Eitan’s tragic death in January 2020, and we have great sympathy for his family and those affected by his death.

"Out of respect for Eitan’s parents, who are valued employees, the university is not addressing the specifics of each claim in the lawsuit nor elaborating on the chain of events that occurred. However, the university disagrees with many of the allegations in the complaint and will defend itself against the lawsuit," the university said. "In our community, there is nothing worse than the death of a student. It is a devastating occurrence that profoundly affects us all. However, criticisms of the actions of our professional staff, in this case, are unfounded; their actions were timely and reasonable based on the information they had at the time. In addition, it is not accurate that Stanford failed to take appropriate actions following Eitan’s death."

The university said it undertook a comprehensive investigation and removed Theta Delta Chi from campus. Whether and when the fraternity would be allowed back and under what conditions will depend on any information that night comes out of the criminal proceedings against Carpenter.

The university said it did send warnings to its community about the dangerous drug in 2019 and after Weiner's death. The university has had a longstanding drug-and-alcohol-education prevention program that all students are required to take prior to matriculation. The university has started a naloxone (Narcan) and opioid-training program Santa Clara County’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Project curriculum, which trained nearly 300 student resident assistance and Greek chapter leaders. Naxolone is a medication that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose.

The university's drug and alcohol policies include Good Samaritan provisions to encourage students who witness dangerous situations with alcohol and drugs to seek help without fear of disciplinary action.

In December, Stanford announced it has contracted with outside experts to conduct an external review of its approaches to alcohol and drug use to improve its effectiveness, the university said.

Comments

Jon D
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2022 at 3:26 pm
Jon D, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jan 22, 2022 at 3:26 pm

Wait…did I read that he OD’d…then went back to the SAME drug 2 days later and OD’d again? And that is somehow Stanford’s fault and/or the fraternity? No parent should bury a child, ever….this seems like the lawyers pursuing a cash grab. [Portion removed.]


Banes
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2022 at 12:00 pm
Banes, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 24, 2022 at 12:00 pm
M
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2022 at 1:12 pm
M, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 24, 2022 at 1:12 pm

I feel horrible for these parents, but hope they find a better way to cope with their loss.


dontliveinCA
Registered user
another community
on Jan 24, 2022 at 4:11 pm
dontliveinCA, another community
Registered user
on Jan 24, 2022 at 4:11 pm

Sorry, but this young man knowingly bought and took dangerous illegal drugs. He did so volutarily. I do not think Stanford is to blame.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 24, 2022 at 4:34 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 24, 2022 at 4:34 pm

So do kids knowingly using false ids to buy booze and cigarettes but bars get penalized / lose their licenses for selling to minors and the city almost shut Mac's Smoke Shop down because some girl used a fake id and her mother got upset with Mac's, not with her daughter.

According to various articles, Stanford was aware of the fraternity's repeated violations, said they were going to shut them down if the violations continued which they did but instead of shutting it down, Stanford changed its mind.

I'm not taking sides here, just noting the double standard.


Colleen D.
Registered user
Midtown
on Jan 24, 2022 at 6:01 pm
Colleen D., Midtown
Registered user
on Jan 24, 2022 at 6:01 pm

My heart breaks for this family. The opioid/fentanyl epidemic has long tentacles that can reach you no matter where you are, even inside an esteemed private university like Stanford. Maybe the lawsuit will raise awareness and help prevent other tragic deaths, but the sad truth is no institution or parent can safeguard kids 100% of the time. Young people are going to experiment and hide that behavior from their parents and other trusted adults. I’m curious if the young man’s parents were aware of the first incident. The repetition of the the same dangerous behavior two days after the first overdose suggests a bigger problem. I’m sorry for their loss and their pain.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 24, 2022 at 7:02 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 24, 2022 at 7:02 pm

Again, not taking sides but Stanford has a history of sweeping rape under the rug. In addition the Brock Turner case, here's a report today from NPR about Elizabeth Holmes' rape at a Stanford fraternity. Web Link

"This fraternity house has had issues for years. In 2003, according to a "Stanford Report" Sigma Chi was cited for a history of conduct problems, failure to implement residential programming and "a lack of responsiveness" of house leadership in working with university officials, among other issues.

It is the same fraternity house where in 2018, seven Stanford students were suspected of being drugged by a non-Stanford student at a party. This prompted its suspension and a legal battle over the frat's future on campus."


dontliveinCA
Registered user
another community
on Jan 25, 2022 at 5:01 pm
dontliveinCA, another community
Registered user
on Jan 25, 2022 at 5:01 pm

to Online Name: You believe Elizabeth Holmes? She is a convicted liar. That rape report was never verified....she has cried "rape" before. Also, the Brock Turner case was mainly a debacle because of the judge who sentenced him to only a few months....I believe the judge was demoted. Stanford expelled Turner. Stanford can't put him in jail. Again, this student knowingly paid for and took illegal drugs. His parents both work @ Stanford....they had no idea what was happening @ this fraternity? I feel sorry for them and mourn the loss of their son, but they are trying to blame other folks for their own son's mistakes.,,,and possibly theirs.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 28, 2022 at 8:00 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2022 at 8:00 am

I think it likely that the "yawning gap" paragraph is what this lawsuit is all about. If Stanford would do all that it reasonably can to achieve a healthier campus, tragedies like this one might be averted. Maybe this lawsuit will result in some badly needed changes.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 29, 2022 at 9:08 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 29, 2022 at 9:08 am

@dontliveinCA, you ask "You believe Elizabeth Holmes? She is a convicted liar."

Absolutely not. Nope. That's why I was careful to say "not taking sides" when responding to someone above who said the only one to blame for the fentanyl death was the deceased and to quote only the portion about the fraternity that Stanford failed to discipline after repeated reported infractions.

Re Holmes, I'm offended by her playing "the mommy card" and all the recent articles in the SJ Merc and elsewhere about how 1) her being a mother will get her a light sentence, 2) the trauma of her being separate from her child as if she were the only mother facing jail terms, 3) the ridiculous article about her "stylish diaper bag" etc etc.

I hope the judge and the public won't be swayed by such transparent pr. And I hope all her traumatized victims who were given false diagnoses sue her for civil damages since she walked on those charges.


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