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The family of star football player Katie Meyers, who died by suicide last spring, has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Stanford University, with several administrators alleging that their handling of the alleged disciplinary action caused her to have an “acute stress reaction that impulsively led to her suicide.”
Meyer, a senior who led Stanford to the 2019 NCAA championship, was found dead in her dorm room in March. Shortly before her death, Meyer was facing consequences after standing up for a teammate on campus, her parents said, days after her suicide.
“The actions that led to Katie Meyer’s death began and ended with Stanford University,” the lawsuit says, making the allegations that led to the potential disciplinary action public for the first time.
In August 2021, Meyer was riding her bicycle when, according to the lawsuit, she allegedly spilled coffee on a soccer player who allegedly sexually assaulted one of her underage teammates.
In response to the incident, Meyer received a formal letter of accusation from Stanford’s Office of Community Standards informing her of the pending disciplinary action, the lawsuit states. According to the lawsuit, the letter was emailed to her on the night of her death and exactly six months after the coffee spill.
“We are deeply troubled and disappointed by what we have learned since her passing, and have no choice but to pursue legal action to bring justice for Katie and to protect future students,” the Meyer family said in a statement.
In a statement to CNN, Stanford University spokesman Dee Mostoffi denied the lawsuit’s claims.
“The Stanford community continues to mourn Katie’s tragic death, and our condolences go out to her family for the unimaginable pain Katie’s passing has caused them,” Mostofi wrote.
“However, we strongly disagree with the allegation that the university is responsible for her death. While we have not yet seen the official complaint filed by the Meier family, we are aware of some of the claims made in the application that are false and misleading,” Mostofi added.
According to the lawsuit, the letter “included threatening language about sanctions and possible ‘expulsion from the university.'”
“The formal disciplinary charge letter regarding the spilled coffee also informed Katie that her diploma was being held only three (3) months after graduation; jeopardizing her status as a Stanford student, captain and member of the soccer team, residence advisor, Mayfield Scholar, Defense Innovative Scholar, and her ability to attend Stanford Law School, among other things.
After receiving the letter, Meyer immediately responded to the email, telling the university she was “shocked and upset” by the action, the lawsuit said.
“The staff at Stanford failed to support Katie when she expressed feelings of despair, she was terrified that the accident would destroy my future,” and she “feared for months that my clumsiness would ruin my chances of leaving Stanford on a good note.” and experience great “anxiety” associated with the OCS process,” the lawsuit further states.
According to university spokesman Mostofi, the letter also included “a number to call for immediate support and specifically stated that this resource is available to her 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
“It is important to emphasize that we are committed to supporting students through the student court process under OCS, and we did so in this case. Specifically, the university offered Katie a counselor to work with her throughout the process and said that at any meeting or conversation with OCS, she could have a support person of her choice,” Mostofi added.
Noting that Meyer had no prior history of mental illness, the lawsuit detailed the plans she had made in the days before her death, including buying plane tickets, planning a birthday party and attending classes and soccer practice as usual.