A Davenport man seriously injured after falling three stories from an Iowa State University fraternity house window in 2008 has lost his appeal in a lawsuit against the fraternity.
Kaleb Stebens, who was 18 at the time, suffered a broken neck, back and ribs, as well as a skull fracture and collapsed lung after falling from a window at the FarmHouse Fraternity in Ames early on Sept. 7, 2008.
He sued FarmHouse for negligence, saying the fraternity was responsible for his injuries because he was told when he moved in a month before the accident that he had to leave a window open in his third-floor room.
He also sued two fraternity members claiming they were responsible for his fall because they provided him alcohol at a party the night before at another residence in Ames.
A district court granted summary judgment in favor of FarmHouse and the two members. Stebens admitted he bought alcohol with his own money, even though he was underage, although no evidence showed alcohol consumption caused his fall, the court ruled. Stebens appealed.
The Iowa Court of Appeals sided with the district court Thursday, determining that the only attributed cause of Steben’s fall is sleep-walking.
He has a tendency to sleep-walk due to a brain injury from a 1998 accident, the appeals court wrote.
That accident occurred when Stebens, then 8 years old, was riding his bicycle on LeClaire Street in Davenport and Pauline Connelly-Buehl,17, of Bettendorf, who was driving under the influence, hit him and dragged him more than 50 feet with her car. Stebens was airlifted to University Hospitals in Iowa City, where he underwent treatment for extensive injuries to his face. Connelly-Buehl spent 17 months in prison.
Stebens testified as part of his suit against the fraternity that sleepwalking caused his fall out the window.
His mother, Stephanie Stebens, told the Quad-City Times days after his fall that sleepwalking was a possible reason.
When he moved into FarmHouse in August 2008, he selected a bunk bed next to a third-story window and said he was instructed that the window must stay open at all times, the appeals court wrote.
He did not think there was any reason why he would not be able to sleep safely in the third-floor room, the appeals court wrote.
Sometime between 3 and
4 a.m., Sept. 7, 2008, Stebens got out of bed and fell out of the window, the appeals court wrote.