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NIU fraternity and sorority members sued after hazing death

When your teen enters their first year at college, you hope that they will make new friends, join campus organizations and dive deep into their studies. One of your hopes for them could be that they get involved in Greek life.

However, when it comes to Greek organizations, you may have heard horror stories about prospective hopefuls being hazed by the organizations’ members. One such horror story became two parents’ worst nightmare, proving that hazing can have deadly consequences.

Hazing ritual ends in pledge’s death

In 2012, a party held by fraternity members at Northern Illinois University ended tragically when the fraternity house became one pledge’s final resting place. The party took place at Pi Kappa Alpha’s local chapter house where fraternity and sorority members participated in a hazing ritual. The members instructed the victim and other fraternity pledges to consume vodka out of 4-ounce cups while playing a game to prove their desire to join the organization.

As a result, the victim ended up drinking nearly a pint and a half of vodka in just over hour. The next morning, the student was found dead and toxicology results showed that he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.351 percent when he died. The lawyer for the family stated that his BAC reached 0.43 before his death over the course of the night.

Victim’s family files wrongful death lawsuit

In response, the victim's family filed wrongful death lawsuits against the property owner of the fraternity house, the fraternity’s local chapter as well as the national fraternity organization. When the case first went to court, the county court judge dismissed the case. The family appealed the ruling all the way up to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The Court ruled that the victim’s family could not sue the national fraternity organization. But the justices did say they could take legal action against the local chapter along with the fraternity and sorority members who were at the party. The student’s family will continue the lawsuit against the members and hopes to go to trial in the next two years.

The victim’s family hopes to send a message to Greek organizations on college campuses nationwide that hazing has deadly and legal consequences. They hold out hope that the lawsuit will persuade all higher education institutions to review their policies for Greek life events to prevent hazing deaths in the future.

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