Congressman's Son a Defendant in Fraternity Death Lawsuits - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Congressman's Son a Defendant in Fraternity Death Lawsuits

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP/WBOC)- The son of U.S. Rep. John Carney from Delaware is a defendant in two lawsuits over the death of a Clemson University fraternity pledge.

The two lawsuits, filed Monday, each seek at least $25 million in damages in 19-year-old Tucker Hipps' September death. He fell from a bridge into rocky, shallow water during a Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity run.

The lawsuits name three fraternity members - including Samuel Quillen Carney - the university, and the fraternity.

John Carney and his wife, Tracey Quillen Carney, said in a statement Tuesday, "No one - certainly no parent - can feel anything but sympathy for this family's grief and anger," they said. "We have faith that those trusted with investigative and legal authority will act based on facts."

They said that since the incident, they have advised their son to tell the truth and remember any detail that might help authorities.

Mark Reardon, an attorney and spokesman for the Carney family, stressed to WBOC these are civil cases.

"The tragic death of fraternity pledge Tucker Hipps has caused his grieving parents to sue Clemson University, the fraternity's national corporation and the local chapter's leadership, including Sam Carney," Reardon wrote in a statement. "But when all the facts are known, the conclusion will be that Sam had no role in the tragic accident causing Tucker's death."

The death remains under investigation.

Court documents filed by the Hipps family's attorney describe Tucker Hipps as "a bright young man, an accomplished high school athlete, an alumnus of Palmetto Boys State, kind and thoughtful with a contagious smile."

Hipps was a political science major planning to go to law school. He joined SPE as a pledge in early September.

The lawsuit says the fraternity asked Clemson for permission to have a 5:30 AM run on or about September 22. When they did not receive a response, it says, that was interpreted as a thumbs up for the run, which Carney along with two other brothers planned.

According to the suit, Hipps was supposed to bring 30 McDonalds biscuits, 30 McDonalds hash browns and two gallons of chocolate milk to the run, but he did not. During the run there was a confrontation between Hipps and another fraternity member over this and that Hipps was not keeping up, the suit alleges, which led to Hipps going "over the railing of a bridge and into the shallow waters of Lake Hartwell head first."

The court documents say the fraternity members took minimal to no action to look for Hipps and didn't contact police until seven hours after the run. Police eventually found Hipps' body under a bridge over the lake.

In addition to the $25 million in actual damages, the lawsuits seek unspecified punitive damages and ask for a jury trial.

Clemson said it does not comment on pending litigation. The fraternity said it had received the lawsuits on Tuesday and was reviewing them.

The other two fraternity members named as defendants are Thomas Carter King and Campbell T. Starr. Neither they nor Samuel Carney immediately responded to messages left in their campus email accounts seeking comment.

A man who answered the phone at King's mother's house in Charlotte, North Carolina, said he had no comment.

The Clemson case is the latest in a string of issues that have put fraternities in the national news. Others include recent allegations that a Penn State fraternity used a private Facebook page to post photos of nude women, and a video showing fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma singing a racist song.

Click here and here to read the full lawsuit information.

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