Family of Clemson Student Settles Lawsuits Filed in His Death

The family of the Clemson student who died after an event with fraternity rushes has settled a lawsuit.

The family of Tucker Hipps has settled lawsuits that were filed against Clemson University, Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and several members of it after his death on Lake Hartwell.

The settlement was reached after extensive mediation in the case, according to court documents filed electronically Wednesday with the Pickens County Courthouse.

The amount of the settlement was not disclosed in legal documents and still has to be approved by a judge, according to court records.

Hipps, a 19-year-old Clemson University sophomore and fraternity pledge, was found dead near the S.C. 93 bridge hours after going on a run with about 30 members of the fraternity on Sept. 22, 2014.

His parents, Cindy and Gary Hipps, filed a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action seeking $25 million from the defendants in March 2015. The two cases were consolidated earlier this year.

Tucker Hipps, a Wren High School graduate from Piedmont, was president of his fraternity's pledge class before he died. Because of that, requests from fraternity brothers were routed through him.

According to lawsuits filed by his parents, the run Hipps went on the day he died was organized by fraternity leaders Sam Carney, Thomas Carter King and Campbell Starr, the three students named in the lawsuit.

Hipps was asked before the run to bring 30 McDonald’s biscuits and 2 gallons of chocolate milk to the fraternity members, according to the lawsuit. The failure to bring breakfast led to a confrontation between Hipps and King that happened on or near the bridge, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuits allege that Hipps was forced to walk a narrow railing on the bridge over Lake Hartwell by members of the fraternity.

He died of head injuries that Oconee County Coroner Karl Addis said were consistent with having hit his head on rip rap rocks in shallow water below.

Fraternity members have denied seeing Hipps fall, and the university and local and national chapters of the fraternity have denied responsibility for his death.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office has investigated the case and has received assistance from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. No criminal charges have been filed in the case.

In a court filing related to the civil cases, an attorney for Carney has filed a motion to seal certain documents in the case. Those documents Carney seeks to have sealed include excerpts from the deposition of a forensic pathologist.

Carney is the son of Delaware Gov. John Carney.

Druanne White, an Anderson attorney who is among those representing the Hipps family, declined Thursday to comment on the potential settlement.

"I will say that this was a very tragic event," White said. "My heart bleeds for the Hipps family on the loss of their only son."

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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