Ski resort says it will sue UM students over vandalism

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Repercussions continue to reverberate against the University of Michigan fraternity and sorority that vandalized the Treetops Resort in Gaylord in January.

On Tuesday, officials from the resort announced they plan to sue individuals involved in the melee that caused $230,000 in actual damages and upward of $200,000 in management time and reputation damage.

The damage occurred when more than 200 members of the University of Michigan's Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity and Sigma Delta Tau sorority rented about 50 rooms at the northern Michigan resort for a ski weekend.

The decision to sue follows a review of the criminal investigation by Treetops' legal advisers, according to a statement from the resort. They concluded that some members retaliated against Treetops after the resort management told the leadership of the group they had not completed their prepayment arrangements and that money was due.

Treetops' management spoke with leaders of the group after the first night about "significant, but non-malicious damage." Though the management got verbal commitments from the fraternity president that the group would be more careful, just the opposite occurred, the resort says.

According to Treetops,the "damage caused on the second day was so extensive that it had to be the result of malicious and intentional conduct."

"It is not unusual for large groups — particularly large groups of students — to accidentally break a table, or knock over a lamp," said Barry Owens, Treetops general manager. "That is one of the reasons why prepayment arrangements and security deposits are standard operating procedure for large groups. But we've never had to deal with anything like this before. We're prepared for problem issues, but something on this mass scale surprised us — as I think it would most resorts."

In the wake of the incident, the fraternity has been suspended from UM's campus.

Criminal charges have been filed against Sigma Alpha Mu chapter president Joshua Kaplan and fraternity members Zachary Levin and Matthew Vlasic.

That's another reason for the suit, the resort said, since only three students are being charged and Treetops is unaware of UM or the Greek groups taking any other action against any individuals.