BY ELAINE GOODMAN
Daily Post Correspondent
A lawsuit filed against Stanford University by the parents of Katie Meyer, the soccer star who died by suicide last year, has been whittled down by a judge.
Steven and Gina Meyer filed the wrongful death lawsuit in November, after their daughter was found dead in her dorm room on March 1, 2022. Among the eight claims in the Meyers’ lawsuit, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Frederick Chung dismissed six.
But the wrongful death claim against the university remains in the lawsuit and could eventually go to trial. The Meyers have 30 days to amend claims in the lawsuit that Chung dismissed, including breach of contract and gender discrimination.
Chung issued an order in the case following a May 9 hearing.
In the lawsuit, Meyer’s parents said Stanford employees “recklessly and negligently” emailed their daughter on the evening of Feb. 28, 2022, notifying Katie that she was facing a disciplinary charge.
The charge was in connection with an August 2021 incident in which Meyer spilled hot coffee on another student, causing a sunburn-like injury that required medical treatment, according to court filings. The notice told Meyer, who was scheduled to graduate in three months, that she could potentially be kicked out of school and that her degree was being put on hold while the case was resolved.
The Meyers said that Stanford employees failed to check on Katie even though she responded to the email saying she was “shocked and distraught.” The Meyers said the notice caused Katie to have an acute stress reaction that led to her suicide. Meyer, who was Stanford women’s soccer goalie and team captain, was 22.
In the lawsuit, the Meyers said Stanford promises to look after its students, referring to students as members of the Stanford family.
For example, an undergraduate admissions page on the university’s website said that “parents can be assured that their students are cared for during their freshman year and throughout their Stanford career,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also cited promotional materials, admission documents, and parts of a speech by Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, who thanked parents “for entrusting your loved ones to us.”
In failing to take care of Katie, the university breached its contract with the Meyers, the lawsuit alleges.
But Judge Chung rejected the Meyers’ claims of breach of contract and breach of implied contract, saying the claims aren’t specific enough regarding the alleged contract.
“In an effort to cast as wide and unlimited a net as possible regarding any potentially applicable contracts, the complaint fails to capture anything concrete,” Chung wrote.
The Meyers also allege that Stanford subjected Katie to gender discrimination in violation of the California education code.
The student on whom Katie spilled coffee was a football player who allegedly kissed one of Katie’s teammates without permission.
Meyer’s parents said in the lawsuit that the football player hadn’t received consequences as a result of the alleged incident, but Katie was being charged in connection with the coffee spill.
“Stanford wrongfully pursued Katie and not the football player, and Stanford is responsible for that harm,” the lawsuit said.
Stanford said it reported the allegation against the football player to police and the university’s Title IX office, which didn’t pursue the matter.
“The complaint repeatedly admits … that Stanford initiated disciplinary proceedings against Katie, not on the basis of her gender … but because she admittedly spilled hot coffee on another student and then gave inconsistent reasons for doing so,” the judge wrote.
The judge also rejected the Meyers’ claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Meyers have 30 days to amend the claims.
In response to the lawsuit, Stanford noted that the university had offered Katie an advisor to work with her during the disciplinary process. In the email correspondence on the evening of Feb. 28, 2022, the university included contact information for an on-call dean who was available for “immediate support.”
The university also said that Meyer was facing other stress besides the disciplinary action.
“An initial investigation has identified other perceived stressors in her life, including that Katie told teachers and classmates that plaintiffs (Katie’s parents) put pressure on her to be perfect and that their statements to her and treatment of her had been significant stressors in her life since she was a teen,” Stanford said in a court filing.