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$3 Million Awarded to Family of Student Who Died in Fraternity Hazing Ritual

Shot glasses being filled with alcohol - fraternity hazing

The family of a 20-year-old who died from alcohol poisoning during a fraternity hazing ritual was awarded a $3 million settlement from Bowling Green State University.

According to a report in The Daily Mail, Stone Foltz, a sophomore business major at the Ohio university, died in March 2020, three days after he was allegedly blindfolded and forced to drink 20 shots while pledging Pi Kappa Alpha’s Delta Beta chapter.

Death from Alcohol Poisoning

A roommate reportedly found Foltz unconscious after fraternity members dropped him off at his apartment. He was placed on life support and died soon after his family members arranged for his organs to be donated.

Foltz’s parents have started a foundation in their son’s name to put an end to hazing on college campuses. The settlement with the university comes in addition to more than $7 million in payouts made to the family by the fraternity and those who were involved, according to court documents.

Eight former fraternity members either pleaded guilty or were found guilty on various charges, including reckless homicide, hazing, and providing alcohol to a minor. Two of the eight were acquitted last year of more serious charges, including involuntary manslaughter. Their defense attorneys had argued that Foltz was not required to drink an entire bottle of alcohol and that he made that decision on his own.

Fraternity Hazing: Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Foltz’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school, alleging that it failed to stop hazing despite knowing about it. They sought damages describing the defendants’ conduct as “utterly intolerable in a civilized society” and described how pledges were allegedly blindfolded and taken to a location where they were each encouraged to drink an entire bottle of alcohol.

The lawsuit alleges that Fotlz was coerced into drinking the entire bottle – equal to 40 shots – and then dropped off at his apartment, unsupervised. When his roommate found him, Foltz was still breathing. But he died at the hospital a few days later.

Foltz’s parents and the university issued a joint statement after the settlement saying that they plan to work together to prevent such tragedies in the future.

How Prevalent is College Hazing?

College hazing is more prevalent than we know. Statistics from show that more than half of college students are involved in some form of campus hazing. In 95% of hazing cases, students who were aware they were hazed did not report it to campus authorities. In 25% of hazing cases, coaches or advisors who were aware of the hazing did not report it.

In more than half of the hazing incidents, a member of the offending group posts pictures on social media or on the internet. Currently, in the United States, 44 states have anti-hazing laws. Since 1970, there has been at least one hazing death on a college campus each year. It is also worth noting that 82% of deaths from hazing involve alcohol.

How to Prevent Fraternity Hazing on College Campuses

Here are some ways to prevent hazing on college campuses:

  • Start a hazing prevention movement on your campus.
  • Become acquainted with what hazing is, and what the indicators of hazing are.
  • Take the hazing prevention pledge.
  • Report incidents of hazing to the appropriate authorities right away.
  • Know what the university’s anti-hazing rules are and familiarize yourself with local and state regulations pertaining to hazing.

Can Schools Be Held Liable for Hazing Injuries and Deaths?

Whether or not schools can be held liable for hazing incidents could very well depend on the facts and circumstances of the specific case. Liability could depend on how aware the school was of the hazing incidents and whether the incidents occurred on campus or near campus.

Schools that know about hazing events but take no action to curb or investigate the problem are likely to be held liable for injuries and deaths related to hazing. Even if the schools are not held liable, other entities that play a more direct role, such as the members of fraternities and sororities, can be held liable.

Schools and other entities may try to blame students for the incidents or try to state that they engaged in the dangerous activities on their own. Some will also argue that the victims made their injuries worse by engaging in high-risk behavior. In many cases, schools are liable for hazing-related accidents, injuries, and fatalities that take place on campus or on their watch.

If your loved one has been injured in a hazing incident, it is important that you seek the counsel of an experienced California personal injury lawyer who will stay on top of the official investigation and help ensure that justice is served. In addition to receiving compensation for your losses, these types of lawsuits can also go a long way in correcting a wrong and play a part in eradicating hazing from college campuses.

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California Personal Injury Blog