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Death after fraternity hazing ritual could lead to wrongful death suit

In past posts we reported on the case of a wrongful death suit against Florida A&M University stemming from the hazing death of a drum major. It was a truly sad situation of fraternity initiation activities gone horribly wrong.

Today, the Associated Press reports that more than 20 members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Northern Illinois University are facing criminal charges after the recent death of a pledge seeking to join the group. Preliminary reports suggest that the 19 year-old freshman died as a result of alcohol poisoning.

He was found unresponsive at the fraternity house after a pledging event the night before involved heavy drinking. Fraternity pledges were reportedly rotated between rooms and asked a number of questions (ostensibly about that history of the fraternity) and were given shots of vodka and other types of liquor as punishment for incorrect answers. According to the DeKalb Police Department, a number of pledges reported being sick or passing out due to alcohol consumption.

It comes as no surprise that many of the fraternity members are facing misdemeanor and felony charges, and it is likely that the chapter may see discipline from the national board.

As with our last hazing post, we take no position on whether such hazing is appropriate, and our hearts go out to the young man's family. However, this has the makings of a wrongful death suit due to the ominous circumstances surrounding his death. It is reasonable to suspect that a court could see the perpetrators as being negligent in forcing pledges to consume large amounts of alcohol, and that such negligence lead directly to the young man's death.

Source: ABC, Illinois Frat Members Charged in Student Hazing Death, December 18, 2012

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