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The family of star football player Katie Meyer, who died by suicide last spring, has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Stanford University and several administrators, alleging their actions around potential disciplinary action caused her to “suffer from an acute stress response , the impulse led to her suicide.”
Meyer, a senior who helped lead Stanford to the 2019 NCAA title, was found dead in her dorm room in March. Meyer faced repercussions after defending teammates on campus shortly before her death, her parents said in the days after her suicide.
“The conduct leading up to Katie Meyer’s death began and began at Stanford University,” the lawsuit said, detailing for the first time allegations that would trigger potential disciplinary action.
According to the lawsuit, in August 2021, Meyer spilled coffee while cycling on a football player who allegedly sexually assaulted one of her underage teammates.
In response to the incident, Meyer received a formal charge letter from Stanford’s Office of Community Standards informing her of impending disciplinary action, the lawsuit says. The letter was emailed to her the night of her death, exactly six months after the spilled coffee incident, according to the lawsuit.
“We are deeply disturbed and disappointed by what we have learned after her death and have no choice but to continue the lawsuit to achieve justice for Katie and protect future students,” the Meyer family said in a statement.
In a statement to CNN, Stanford spokesman Dee Mostofi refuted the claims of the lawsuit.
“The Stanford community continues to mourn Katie’s tragic death, and our sympathies go out to her family for the unimaginable pain Katie’s passing has caused them,” Mostofi wrote.
“However, we strongly disagree with any suggestion that the University was responsible for her death. While we have not seen a formal complaint filed by the Meyer family, we know that some of the allegations in the document are false and misleading,” Mostow Fei added.
According to the lawsuit, the letter “contains threatening language about sanctions and possible ‘expulsion from the university.'”
“The formal disciplinary letter related to the spilled coffee also notified Katie that her diploma was on hold just three (3) months after she graduated; threatening her status as a Stanford student, football team captain and member, housing Advisor, Mayfield Fellow, Defense Innovation Scholar, and her ability to get into Stanford Law School, among other things.”
Immediately after receiving the letter, Meyer responded to the email, telling the university that she was “shocked and distraught” by the action, the lawsuit said.
“Stanford staff didn’t support Katie when she expressed hopelessness that she was ‘fearful that an accident would ruin my future’ and she’d been terrified for months that my clumsiness would ruin my good grades Opportunity to leave Stanford’,” and experienced much of the ‘anxiety’ associated with the OCS process,” the lawsuit further states.
According to university spokesman Mostofi, the letter to Meyer also included “a phone number where support can be reached immediately and was specifically told that this resource was available to her 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
“It is important to emphasize that we are committed to supporting students through the student justice process under OCS, which we do in this case. In particular, the University provided Katie with a counselor to work with her throughout the process , and told her she could choose a support person in any meeting or conversation with OCS,” Mostofi added.
Noting that Meyer had no prior history of mental illness, the lawsuit further details the plans she made in the days leading up to her death, including buying airline tickets, planning a birthday party and attending classes and soccer practice as normal.