Beaufort County woman sues after injury during spaghetti-throwing initiation at Elks Club

emoody@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 27, 2012 

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A Beaufort County woman is suing a local club, claiming she broke an ankle when members threw spaghetti at her and forced her to jump over a pan of water during an initiation.

Mary Ann Doctor is suing the Improved Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks of the World, its local S.J. Bampfield Lodge 5 and Beaufort County resident Estella Brown, according to documents filed Feb. 10 by attorney Francis J. Cornely of Charleston.

None of the parties could be reached Monday for comment.

Doctor's suit says she was invited to the lodge at 806 Church St. for initiation on or about Jan. 20, 2010. Brown already was a member of the lodge.

Once there, Doctor was told to remove her shoes and put on a blindfold, according to the complaint. Brown led Doctor in a circle around a large room while people threw cooked spaghetti at her.

Brown told Doctor to jump when they came to a pan of water on the floor. Doctor did, but slipped on the pan as she landed, breaking her ankle, according to the complaint. She fell because Brown did not help her, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says club members, employees and other people at the lodge were not adequately supervised and trained. Policies and procedures about initiation were inadequate, the initiation was unsafe, and Doctor was not warned or supported enough during her blindfolded walk and jump, her complaint says.

Doctor is suing for actual and punitive damages, but does not specify an amount in the lawsuit.

According to the organization's website, it is the world's largest black fraternal organization with more than 450,000 members. It was created in 1898 by men who wanted to create an Elks organization for people of color. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks began as a whites-only organization.

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