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Frat’s Alcohol Hazing Ritual Leads to Fatal Injuries, Lawsuit Settlement

— September 13, 2018

The parents of Timothy Piazza, who suffered fatal injuries at a fraternity house in 2017 at Penn State, filed a lawsuit against Beta Theta Pi and a settlement has now been reached.  Piazza died after consuming a toxic amount of alcohol and suffered head and abdominal injuries from falling as a result of a hazing ritual.

Security camera footage showed fraternity members holding down Piazza, strapping him to a loaded backpack to keep him from turning over, pouring liquids on him and trying to get him to.  The student was left on couch overnight and made several attempts to get up but fell repeatedly and in some cases landed on his head.  Friends waited 40 minutes the following morning to call for help.

Tom Kline, the attorney representing the Piazza family, announced that the settlement will allow Timothy’s parents to now move forward with any claims against other parties, including the individual perpetrators.  The total dollar amount remains undisclosed, but a summary of the settlement’s terms follows:

Frat's Alcohol Hazing Ritual Leads to Fatal Injuries, Lawsuit Settlement
Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

“Immediately supporting the proposed Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law in Pennsylvania; Requiring all chapter houses to be alcohol- and substance-free by August of 2020;  Including the Piazzas in any decision-making process involving the future use of the closed Beta chapter at Penn State if the property is retained by the local house corporation; Withdrawing recognition, a pre-condition to operating a chapter, in the event a host college or university withdraws recognition based on conduct violations that have been fully and finally adjudicated at the local level; Establishing and communicating – on the chapter’s website along with other related conduct policies and procedures – to those throughout the organization that any ‘action causing injury’ to another is grounds for expulsion.”

Also, “Requiring that the college or university’s police/public safety department be immediately notified of any reported student conduct violations that result in serious bodily injury or death of a member, new member or third-party guest; Requiring enhanced education and training – including on a semester rather than annual basis – regarding social event planning, bystander engagement, and prevention of hazing, alcohol/substance abuse, sexual assault and other abuses that could result in personal injury; Requiring chapters to publicly list online all chapter events and dates within their new member education programs as a part of Beta’s standardized new member education program and annual certification process; Requiring all chapters to complete annual safe event planning education prior to holding social events; Encouraging local house corporations to have a policy of a live-in house advisor as a best practice; Using reasonable efforts to implement a standardized new member education program limited to four weeks in length prior to initiation of new members; Encouraging chapters to have security cameras installed at all chapter housing; Establishing a relationship statement between Beta and members, including prospective members, in Fall 2018.”

And, finally, “Publishing notice on the Beta website regarding chapter status changes that result from violations of Fraternity policies, including Fraternity policies on alcohol and hazing; Encouraging open and full access to all chapter housing common areas to third-parties who are authorized by the Beta or the host institution to visit during social events as a best practice; Requiring all chapters to have a chapter faculty advisor on their advising roster at the beginning of each academic year as part of Beta’s chapter recognition requirements; Including bystander intervention training in Beta’s risk management education each semester and continue to provide anonymous reporting options for students and parents.”


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