New Spierer lawsuit seeks answers in two-year-old mystery
The parents of missing Indiana University student Lauren Spierer are trying a new tactic to get answers in their daughter's disappearance.
The Spierers are using the legal system to try to get Lauren's friends to tell what they know - under oath.
With so many unknowns about just what happened the night Lauren Spierer disappeared, her parents filed a civil lawsuit against the three former Indiana University students who were last to see Lauren.
"It is unusual. This doesn't happen very often," said Indianapolis attorney Bruce Kehoe. "Generally when you file a civil claim, a wrongful death action, it's for monetary damages and that's really the purpose of the system. But a byproduct can be to gain information."
The lawsuit alleges negligence by Corey Rossman, Mike Beth and Jason Rosenbaum - all of whom the Spierers have begged to talk for two years.
But the companions of Lauren during the early morning hours of June third have stayed mostly silent.
Corey Rossman last spoke publicly a week after Lauren's disappearance, with his attorney, outside the Bloomington Police Department.
"I just hope that they find her as soon as possible and I'm praying for her and her family," Rossman said at the time. "Did you have anything to do with her disappearance?" he was asked by reporters. "Absolutely not. That's all I can say," Rossman said.
Robert and Charlene Spierer filed the suit right before the two-year anniversary of Lauren's disappearance.
That's because two years is the statute of limitations for civil suits, like injury and wrongful death, in Indiana.
It's something the Spierers say they didn't want to do, but felt they had to do to finally get information.
In a statement to Eyewitness News, the Spierers' attorney, Jason Barclay, said,
"Rob and Charlene Spierer authorized the filing of this lawsuit with great reluctance and only after we counseled them that they would lose certain legal rights if not exercised by the two-year anniversary of Lauren's disappearance. We hope no one will misinterpret this action. Any parent in search of information about a missing child would use every resource available to them. Therefore, we intend to use the rights afforded by the civil justice system to obtain answers to questions that have gone unanswered for too long. We fully expect that those with relevant information will cooperate with this process."
But some legal experts say compelling the defendants to talk may be a challenge, even through a lawsuit.
Beth, Rossman and Rosenbaum could refuse to testify to protect themselves.
"They may be successful in getting under oath answers and they may not be," Kehoe said. "The real complicating factor is when folks are at risk for criminal charges. People don't have an obligation to incriminate themselves. People can take the 5th."
The Spierers claim on June 2 and into June 3, 2011, the three men gave Lauren alcohol, encouraged her to drink more, then abandoned her, even after seeing her "distressed, incoherent and non-responsive."
The suit claims their actions resulted in Lauren's disappearance and likely death - that they lacked a "duty to care."
Defense attorneys could challenge that because a friend or companion's duty to care for someone is a gray area in the law.
"If you invite people into your home and serve them alcoholic beverages, you know you have some obligation. If you're a restaurant or bar operator, you know you have some legal obligations that are statutory. This is an area that may well be challenged," Kehoe explained.
The defendants' attorneys could also request to have the case dismissed.
Eyewitness News reached out to the attorneys of all three of the former IU students being sued.
None of them would comment on the case.
The case has been transferred from Monroe County Circuit Court to federal court. That's because the defendants now live in different states and the damages sought by the Spierers exceeds $75,000.