The parents of a Boston College student who drowned while suffering apparent hypothermia have sued nine young men who they say supplied alcohol to the underage friend who was supposed to be looking after their son while he visited Skidmore College.
Kenneth and Deanna Grant, who live in Westchester County, filed a lawsuit April 19 in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County, seeking more than $5 million in damages.
Through their Albany attorney, John D. Hoggan Jr., they allege four of the men supplied alcohol in a Skidmore dorm room and five others supplied it at an off-campus party their 19-year-old son, Alexander, attended late on March 5, 2011.
They’re suing the men for giving alcohol to Grant’s friend, Michael Perlow, rather than for giving it to Grant, though Grant also was drunk that night. That’s because the state General Obligations Law allows people to seek damages in court if someone supplies alcohol to a minor who then causes harm to someone else.
Perlow, described in the suit as Grant’s “childhood friend,” is not being sued.
The two friends got drunk at Perlow’s dorm room on campus that evening, with Perlow’s roommates — Jonathan Hoeg, Bryan Connolly, Matthew Diaco and Nicholas Yedibalian — allegedly supplying the alcohol, the lawsuit states. Seth Berger bought the booze, according to the suit. Police said in October the students drank beer and tequila, but it was unclear who bought it.
Perlow then decided to go with Grant to an off-campus party at 146 Church St., taking the bus to get there and leaving Grant’s car and his belongings on campus. When they arrived about 10:40 p.m., Grant confessed “that he was unable to care for himself,” the suit states. Perlow assured Grant that he’d bring his friend back to his dorm. They went in, where Perlow kept drinking and separated from Grant, the suit alleged. It does not say whether Grant also drank more at the party.
The party’s hosts were Brendan Flynn, Ian Bain, Charles Sullivan and Brian Milazzo, with Bain allegedly buying the alcohol, according to the lawsuit.
The family alleges that Perlow was too drunk to notice when Grant left the party around 11:15 p.m. It was Grant’s first-ever visit to Saratoga Springs, and the teen left the house and headed west on foot. He was caught on surveillance tape at the Saratoga train station off West Avenue looking disoriented at 11:31 p.m.
He was fully clothed and appeared to stagger, police said in a report completed in October on the teen’s death.
Two hours later, at 1:33 a.m., he was caught on camera again, this time at a medical building on Care Lane off Church Street. Grant may have swiped his Boston College ID card in a card reader at the door — the suit said a similar card reader existed at his college dorm. Unable to get inside the building that way, Grant broke in, leaving him “injured and bleeding profusely,” the court papers say.
An employee of the medical office later found his ID in the snow near the door.
By then, he also had shed most of his clothes. Victims of hypothermia go through a stage where they are disoriented and think they’re too hot.
When caught on camera at 3 Care Lane, he wore only one sock, a long-sleeved T-shirt and shorts. He wandered through the medical building and left at 2:11 a.m.
Grant’s whereabouts after 2:11 a.m. are uncertain, but his body was found two days later, submerged in four feet of water under an ice shelf in Putnam Brook. The cause of death was drowning and hypothermia.
A little more than an hour after Grant left the party, police arrived to break it up. City police got a call about the party at 11:50 p.m. and arrived at 12:30 a.m. Perlow was among those at the party when the police arrived and returned to his dorm room.
Police said in October that Grant’s friend, whom they didn’t name but who appears to be Perlow, sent Grant at least six text messages from the time he left the party until noon the next day. He reported his friend missing more than 16 hours later, at 4:47 p.m. March 6, 2011. Police called Grant’s parents at 7 p.m.
“The Grants immediately drove to Saratoga Springs and, in a blinding snowstorm, the Grants conducted a fruitless search for Alexander Grant on the evening of March 6, 2011,” the lawsuit states.
The parents appear not to blame city police and fire personnel for what happened to their son, praising the emergency responders in court papers for doing “an extensive and heroic search.”
His body was found at 10:43 a.m. March 8, 2011.
Authorities determined his blood-alcohol level at death was 0.16 percent, twice the legal threshold for driving while intoxicated, and that he had “a low level” of marijuana in his system.
Police didn’t file any criminal charges against the residents who hosted the party.