Parents of ex-Stanford goalie Katie Meyer sue school for wrongful death
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The parents of Katie Meyer, the former Stanford soccer goalkeeper who killed herself in February at the age of 21, have sued the university for wrongful death, according to a copy of the civil lawsuit obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
At the time Meyer committed suicide, she was facing disciplinary action for allegedly spilling coffee on a Stanford football player in August while she was riding her bike, according to the complaint filed Wednesday in Santa Clark County Superior Court.
The football player allegedly sexually assaulted a female soccer player, then a minor, on the Stanford women’s soccer team on which Meyer served as a captain, according to the complaint.
Meyer’s father, Steve, previously told USA TODAY Sports that the disciplinary issue arose from Katie Meyer defending a teammate.
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On the evening of Feb. 28, the night of Meyer’s death, Stanford “negligently and “recklessly’’ sent her a formal written notice charging her with a “Violation of the Fundamental Standard by spilling coffee on another student,’’ according to the complaint.
“Stanford’s after-hours disciplinary charge, and the reckless nature and manner of submission to Katie, caused Katie to suffer an acute stress reaction that impulsively led to her suicide,’’ the complaint states. “Katie’s suicide was completed without planning and solely in response to the shocking and deeply distressing information she received from Stanford while alone in her room without any support or resources.’’
In addition to wrongful death, the lawsuit also charges Stanford with Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress and related actions.
Stanford did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY Sports.
The formal disciplinary charge resulted in Meyer’s diploma being placed on hold three months before her scheduled graduation and threatened her status as a Stanford student and, among other things, captain and member of the soccer team that she helped lead to the national championship in 2019.
Meyer received the letter after 7 p.m., at which point Stanford’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services was also closed, according to the complaint.
“Katie, sitting alone in her dorm room, when it was dark outside, immediately responded to the email expressing how ‘shocked and distraught’ she was over being charged and threatened with removal from the university,’’ the complaint reads. “Stanford failed to respond to Katie’s expression of distress, instead ignored it and scheduled a meeting for 3 days later via email. Stanford employees made no effort whatsoever to check on Katie’s well-being, either by a simple phone call or in-person welfare check.’’
In November 2021, according to the complaint, Meyer expressed despair to Stanford employees when she stated she had “been scared for months that my clumsiness will ruin my chances of leaving Stanford on a good note” and was experiencing anxiety during the disciplinary process.
The football player, who was not identified by name in the lawsuit, indicated throughout the disciplinary process that he would like to “make amends’’ and did not want any punishment that would “impact’’ Meyer’s life, according to the complaint.
Lisa Caldera, the Dean of Residential Education, brought the complaint against Meyer to Stanford’s Office of Community Standards, according to the complaint, which said Meyer was charged on the final day. A charge must be brought within six months of the occurrence and the spilled coffee occurred on August 28, 2021, according to the complaint.
Caldera and Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and among those named as defendants.
The football player was dismissed from the team under its own policies pledging zero tolerance for sexual violence, according to the complaint, which added that Stanford failed to initiate any meaningful Title IX or the Office of Community Standards disciplinary process for the football player.
“We are deeply troubled and disappointed with what we have learned since her passing and have no choice but to move forward with litigation to achieve justice for Katie and protect future students,’’ Meyer’s parents, Steve and Gina, said in a press released issued by their attorney, Kim Dougherty. “In addition, we are working to seek systemic changes to improve the safety and support of the Stanford students currently on campus, and those enrolled in the future through our foundation, Katie’s Save.’’