Attorney wrongly served as a defendant in Piazza lawsuit
Wants record immediately expunged
WILLIAMSPORT – A West Virginia attorney is threatening legal action after mistakenly being served as a defendant in a federal suit stemming from the 2017 hazing death of a Penn State student.
Roy D. Baker Jr. in a letter filed Monday in U.S. Middle District Court accuses a Williamsport law firm of failing to conduct basic investigative research that would have shown he is not a former Penn State administrator named in the litigation.
His criticism is aimed at Jessica L. Harlow and Gary L. Weber who represent Craig Heimer, one of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity members sued in connection with the death of Timothy Piazza.
The wrongful death suit against 28 fraternity members accuses them of negligence, breaching their duty to care, intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery and conspiracy.
St. Moritz Security Systems Inc. of Pittsburgh, also a defendant, in October filed a third-party action accusing Penn State, three present current or former administrators including Baker and others of negligence.
Roy W. Baker was the director of student and fraternity life at Penn State from 2007 until October 2015, Penn State spokesperson Lisa M. Powers said.
Roy D. Baker Jr. states in his letter he never was employed by Penn State and has practiced law in Huntington, West Virginia, for 40 years.
He asks Harlow and Weber to take whatever steps are necessary to immediately remove and expunge his identity and address from the suit brought by James and Evelyn Piazza on behalf of themselves and their son’s estate.
“I am shocked by your negligent, careless and reckless conduct as attorneys by listing my business and family addresses as part of your allegations and behalf of your client,” Baker stated in his letter.
He says he has retained counsel to assist him with administrative and civil claims against them, their law firm and Heimer “arising out of your defamatory conduct.”
He cites the allegation in the third-party complaint that Baker was aware of reports of excessive alcohol consumption, underage drinking and hazing at Penn State fraternities and with other administrators failed to take steps to address those conditions.
Piazza died after he and other pledges were forced to consume alcohol during what was known as the “gauntlet.”
His parents’ suit claims at the conclusion of the binge drinking event, their son was assisted to a couch but later fell down the basement stairs and was unconscious.
The fraternity members are accused of failing to properly address Piazza’s injuries. He died Feb. 4, 2017, two days after the fraternity event.
Baker said he is well aware of the Piazza family’s “tangled journey” over the past two years and cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak the parents have felt over the tragic death of their son.
He called it “shameful” and “callous” that Harlow and Weber, as members of the Pennsylvania Bar, didn’t conduct basic investigative research to serve the proper defendant given the sensitive nature of this litigation for the Piazza family.