The family of Katie Meyer, a star soccer goalie for Stanford University who died by suicide in March, has sued the university for wrongful death.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday and reviewed by CNN, alleges that the university administrators’ actions caused her to “suffer an acute stress reaction that impulsively led to her suicide”.
The allegations surround a disciplinary notice delivered to Meyer on the night of her death. On March 1, Meyer, who helped Stanford win the 2019 NCAA College Cup championship game, received a six-page formal charge email from Stanford’s office of community standards, according to the lawsuit, containing a disciplinary notice following an August 2021 incident in which she allegedly spilled coffee on another Stanford student athlete, who was accused of sexually assaulting one of her minor teammates.
Later that evening, she was found dead in one of Stanford’s residence halls, where she was a residential adviser. According to Meyer’s mother, the previous night she had been in good spirits, video-chatting with her family about a planned spring break with them.
Meyer’s parents alleged in the lawsuit that the letter Meyer received before she died “contained threatening language regarding sanctions and potential ‘removal from the university'”.
“The formal disciplinary charge letter related to spilled coffee also informed Katie her diploma was being placed on hold only three (3) months shy of her graduation; threatening her status as a Stanford student, Captain and member of the Soccer team, Residential Advisor, Mayfield Fellow, Defense Innovative Scholar, and her ability to attend Stanford Law school, among many other things,” the lawsuit said.
It said Meyer contacted the university immediately after receiving the email, informing them that she was “shocked and distraught” over the notice, but that “Stanford employees failed to support Katie when she expressed feelings of despair.”
An autopsy confirmed the cause of death was suicide.
“Stanford’s after-hours disciplinary charge, and the reckless nature and manner of submission to Katie, caused Katie to suffer an acute stress reaction that impulsively led to her suicide,” the lawsuit said. “Katie’s suicide was completed without planning and solely in response to the shocking and deeply distressing information she received from Stanford while alone in her room without any support or resources.”
A Stanford spokesperson, Dee Mostofi, disputed the claims of the lawsuit.
“The Stanford community continues to grieve Katie’s tragic death and we sympathize with her family for the unimaginable pain that Katie’s passing has caused them,” ESPN reported Mostofi saying.
“However, we strongly disagree with any assertion that the university is responsible for her death. While we have not yet seen the formal complaint brought by the Meyer family, we are aware of some of the allegations made in the filing, which are false and misleading.”
Mostofi also said that the disciplinary letter which the university sent to Meyer included “a number to call for immediate support and [she] was specifically told that this resource was available to her 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”