Sigma Chi Corp. hit with lawsuit

By Linda Wilkins
Staff Writer

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against former members of the now dissolved Baylor chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity and against individuals associated with Mynar’s Bar in West.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of negligence by providing alcohol to minors at a party in 2009 that 19-year-old Megan HeLal attended the night before she died. HeLal was a student at Navarro College.

The lawsuit is being brought against four persons associated with Mynar’s Bar, located at 121 Oak St.; four former Baylor students who were members of the Baylor Sigma Chi fraternity; and the Sigma Chi Corp.

The lawsuit is also being brought against the Risk Management Foundation, which is an organization maintained by Sigma Chi Corp. that is meant to educate members of the fraternity in policies including, but not limited to, alcohol use.

The charter of the Baylor chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity was ended in 2010 because of several violations of their charter.

According to the petition filed in McLennan County, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit — HeLal’s parents Jeffrey and Donna HeLal, along with the estate of Megan HeLal — claim they suffered the loss of the love and companionship of their daughter, the mental anguish of losing their daughter and pecuniary loss.

An example of pecuniary loss is the money HeLal might have earned over her lifetime.

The petition said the plaintiffs “seek monetary relief aggregating more than $50,000.” The plaintiffs’ lawyer is Linda Turley with the Turley Law Firm in Dallas.

On the morning of March 21, 2010, Baylor and Waco police responded to a 911 call made by then-sophomore John Whitfield when he found his girlfriend Megan HeLal unconscious and nonresponsive in his apartment.

HeLal was visiting Whitfield for the weekend, and the two had attended a party — hosted by the Sigma Chi fraternity, but not authorized by Baylor — at Mynar’s Bar the evening before Whitfield found her unconscious. The presence of alcohol and underage drinking at the party was confirmed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

HeLal was pronounced dead at Hillcrest Medical Center, where she was taken after Whitfield found her, the morning after attending the party at Mynar’s Bar. HeLal’s autopsy revealed she died of “cardiac arrhythmia because of myocardial fibrosis of [undetermined] origin,” and alcohol was not a cause of her death.

Waco Police Department Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said the case was worked as a questionable death but is now closed.

He confirmed HeLal attended a party where alcohol was provided. The Waco PD was brought onto the scene because her death occurred in the Waco city limits, although the party was outside the limits, Swanton said.

He said the coroner at the Southwest Forensic Institute in Dallas ruled HeLal’s death was a result of natural causes and the Waco PD concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing in her death.

Swanton said the Waco PD is not involved with the lawsuit.

Frank Raczkiewicz, assistant vice president of media communications for Baylor, wrote in an email to the Lariat Monday that Baylor did not have a comment on the lawsuit.

“We have not seen the lawsuit against the fraternity and are therefore in no position to comment,” Raczkiewicz wrote.

“The fraternity was dissolved in 2010 for continued student organizational rules infractions.” Michael Dunn, the executive director of the Sigma Chi International Fraternity, said in an interview Wednesday that the fraternity had not been notified of any lawsuit.