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Lawyers for 3 more students indicate they may sue MSU in shooting

MSU memorial
Representatives for seven out of the eight people killed or injured during the Feb. 13 shooting have submitted legal notices suggesting they may sue the university. (Bridge photo by Dale G Young)
  • Lawyers for two slain MSU students and one survivor of a mass shooting have taken a step toward possible suit against MSU    
  • The legal notice identifies the fifth student critically injured in the Feb. 12 mass shooting
  • The lawyers say MSU allowed “dangerous or defective conditions” on its premises as part of their claims

Lawyers for the families of two students killed in a mass shooting at Michigan State University and one student critically injured have filed court papers signaling they may sue the university. 

Their filings mean that seven of the eight students killed or injured in the Feb. 13 attack are now contemplating litigation, essentially based on the argument that MSU was negligent in failing to adequately safeguard the campus from a potential shooting and by its actions, or inactions, as the attack unfolded. 

Attorneys for slain students Brian Fraser, 20, of Grosse Pointe Park and Arielle Anderson, 19, of Harper Woods, filed papers last week with the Michigan Court of Claims. (Attorneys for a third slain student, 20-year-old Alexandria Verner of Clawson, have also filed court papers.) 


The Fraser and Anderson filing was joined by a filing on behalf of an injured MSU student, Hanyang Tao, whose identity was not previously made publicly known.  

The MSU directory lists a student by that name as a senior studying media and information. Tao was one of five students critically injured in the attack. Troy Forbush, Nate Statly, Yukai “John” Hao and Guadalupe Huapilla-Perez were the others. Huapilla-Perez, a student from Florida, is the only one of the eight students injured or killed who has yet to file a notice with the court. 

Lawyers for Tao and the estates of Fraser and Anderson submitted what’s called a notice of occurrence of injury and defect. The document references part of the state Governmental Immunity Act, which outlines government agencies’ duties for repairing and maintaining public buildings. 

On the evening of Feb. 13, Anthony McRae of Lansing entered Berkey Hall, a campus building. He entered room 114 and began firing, killing Anderson and Verner and injuring several other students. As campus police were deluged with frantic 911 calls, the gunman, who was not affiliated with the university, left the building and made his way to the MSU Union, where he entered the building and killed Fraser before leaving campus. (Police say McRae killed himself hours later when approached by police a few miles off campus.)    

In the various legal filings, attorneys raised concerns about university security and safety, both in securing the campus from potential violence and on the evening of the deadly attack. Among the cited failures: a lack of interior door locks, which prevented students and faculty from barricading classrooms from an intruder, and delays of up to 13 minutes between when the first 911 calls were made and when officials sent out emergency campus alerts. 

MSU deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen issued a statement Friday that mirrored a statement released last week. 

“Many lives among our community have been profoundly impacted by the violence our campus experienced,” he said. “We are heartbroken and sorry for the tragic loss of life and each person harmed by senseless gun violence. MSU has been engaged in conversations with the families of those we lost and those injured to identify ways to provide ongoing support, and we are committed to keeping those lines of communication open.”

Under state law, government agencies, which include public universities, can be found liable for bodily injury and property damage as a result of a “dangerous or defective condition” in a public building.

“As a direct and proximate result of the dangerous or defective conditions on the premises, Arielle Anderson and Brian Fraser died in this mass shooting,” lawyers for the students’ families wrote in the latest filing.

Tao’s spine was injured from a gunshot which resulted in fractures to his vertebrae, rib and clavicle, according to the document. The filing said Tao also experienced other injuries and is expected to “receive extensive medical treatment for the rest of his life.”

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