·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

Family of Injured Mizzou Pledge Sues Fraternity, Brothers

— June 12, 2022

The parents of an 18-year-old fraternity pledge who suffered brain damage after being pressured to drink an entire bottle of vodka have filed another lawsuit against two individual Mizzou students.

The family of a University of Missouri student who suffered brain damage in a hazing incident has filed a lawsuit against the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and two individual students.

According to NBC News, the parents of Daniel Santulli on Wednesday named Alec Wetzler and Samuel Gandhi as defendants in the civil lawsuit.

The civil lawsuit, notes NBC News, was originally filed against the fraternity and 22 students.

While the family reached a settlement last month, the terms of the agreement were not made public.

Santulli was an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Missouri when he attended a pledge event called “Pledge Dad Reveal Night” last October.

During the event, Santulli was pressured to consume an entire bottle of Tito’s vodka by himself. Surveillance footage from the fraternity house captured Santulli trying to finish the vodka. Meanwhile, fraternity brothers poured beer down the teenager’s throat using a tube and funnel.

NBC News reports that each Phi Gamma Delta “family” has its own “family bottle,” with Santulli’s being Tito’s vodka.

By 10:55pm the same night, Santulli was unable to stand.

Fraternity brothers carried Santulli to a sofa, where he lay for at least an hour and a half.

Several of the brothers then tried to transport Santulli to a car but dropped him on his head.

By the time that the 18-year-old arrived to University Hospital, he was in cardiac arrest and not breathing. He had a blood alcohol level of .486.

Gavel on copy of lawsuit; image by Wirestock, via
Gavel on copy of lawsuit; image by Wirestock, via

Santulli suffered potentially irreversible brain damage. He is blind and unable to walk and talk. Physicians have told Santulli’s family that he will most likely require special care for the rest of his life.

Santulli’s mother, Mary Pat Santulli, told “Good Morning America” that she still struggles to understand why it took so long for anyone to seek medical attention for her son.

“They knew he was in distress, and his lips were blue, and nobody called 911,” Mary Pat Santulli said. “It’s like, I don’t know—I mean, a 6-year-old calls 911.”

Wetzler, adds NBC News, was charged on June 2 with two misdemeanor counts of possession of alcohol by a minor.

However, neither Wetzler nor any of the other fraternity brothers have been criminally charged for hazing.

David Bianchi, an attorney for the Santulli family, said he still does not understand why prosecutors have been reluctant to take up the case, which he characterizes as “textbook” hazing.

“This is textbook hazing. It’s not debatable. You can go to jail for up to one year,” Bianchi told NBC. “And no charges have been filed against anybody, which is totally mystifying. It’s inexcusable that the prosecutor is choosing to ignore this law and not enforce it.”

Bianchi said that, while the university sanctioned Phi Gamma Delta, the restrictions do not appear to be effective in dissuading misconduct.

“Obviously, university sanctions don’t work, because these guys don’t care,” Bianchi said, observing that Phi Gamma Delta had been sanctioned for hazing several months before the Santulli incident. “So you’ve got to go after it a different way.”

Santulli’s mother said her son continues to require special care.

“He’s still not walking or talking,” she told ABC News’s “Good Morning America.” “He’s in a wheelchair. He lost his vision. But he hears us, and he knows we’re there.”


Danny Santulli’s family on ‘Good Morning America’: Prosecute the Fiji brothers responsible

Hazing incident leaves University of Missouri student unable to see, talk or walk

Parents sue 2 more Univ. of Missouri students in alleged hazing that left son brain damaged

Join the conversation!