Former Kappa Sigma fraternity officers accused of wrongful death by Meredith’s parents

When freshman Chad Meredith drowned in seven feet of water in the middle of Lake Osceola two years ago after a 5 a.m. swim, the entire UM community was in shock. Now, his parents are suing the two Kappa Sigma fraternity officers who swam with Meredith. The wrongful death civil lawsuit seeks unspecified damages greater than $15,000.

Travis Montgomery and David May are accused of being negligent for hazing Meredith and for failing to rescue him, although Miami-Dade Police ruled out hazing two days after the incident. Meredith was hoping to join the fraternity.

Attorneys for both defendants said they would ask the circuit court judge on the case to exclude mention of hazing in front of the jury.

Two days after the incident, Miami-Dade Police deemed Meredith legally drunk with a blood alcohol level of .13, nearly double the legal limit in Florida.

The general consensus on campus is that the incident was an accident. The Hurricane documented the loving comments of dozens of students and fraternity members who were close to Meredith.

According to court depositions, Meredith, Montgomery and May decided to take a swim after a long night of attending a Ludacris concert and socializing at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house.

President Donna E. Shalala released a statement to students and community members the day of the tragedy.

“This is not a Greek issue,” Shalala told The Hurricane. “It’s an issue of students making poor choices.”

According to Miami-Dade Police Detective Ed Munn, who investigated the drowning, several factors could have contributed to Meredith’s drowning.

“He had a messed-up shoulder, he had just had a big meal, the water temperature was chilly and Chad had very little body fat,” Munn said in an interview with The Hurricane during the initial investigation phase of the case. “It was real simple to classify – it was a tragic accident.”

All of South Florida was swamped with heavy rains and high winds at the time of Meridith’s death. School had been canceled because of a hurricane warning the night before.

Swimming in the lake had been prohibited for over two decades.

If a Miami-Dade court rules against Montgomery and May, Meredith’s family could go after the homeowner’s insurance policies of the defendants’ parents, even though they were over 18 and living away from home. The family could also try to go after the fraternity’s insurance carrier.

Meredith came to UM from Indiana to study political science with hopes of attending law school. Friends say he came to UM for the diversity.

The Hurricane will continue to follow the court case as more details are released.

Jorge Arauz can be contacted at

February 6, 2004


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published in print every Tuesday.