Family of Student Files Lawsuit Over Hazing Death

When students go off to college, it is no well-guarded secret that they engage in underage drinking. Especially in the case of students who seek to enter fraternities. The culture of fraternities in the United States is often fraught with binge-drinking and unsafe behavior. This is especially common when a new individual wishes to gain admission into a fraternity. Many of these organizations engage in the practice of hazing: dangerous and extreme initiation rituals. For younger students hoping to enter these fraternities, the “initiations” can be particularly dangerous, and in some unfortunate cases, deadly. This was the case in one family’s tragedy, where a Penn State student tragically lost his life in a hazing incident while trying to join a fraternity.

The Case

The family of Tim Piazza, 19, has announced their plans to pursue legal action over the death of their son. Tim lost his life after a “hazing ritual” in a tragic incident. Tim’s parents were interviewed in a segment on Good Morning America, where they claimed that the members of the fraternity were providing “lethal” amounts of alcohol, and cited their actions as directly responsible for their son’s untimely and unfortunate death. Tim’s father, Jim, also stated that he feels that the incident felt “planned and orchestrated” and that all the members of the fraternity should be held responsible.

Tim participated in a pledging event for the fraternity Beta Theta Pi. Tim was a subject of hazing, and consumed “fatal levels of alcohol” according to the Centre County, PA District Attorney handling the criminal aspect of the case. According to the timeline of the events that led to his death, Tim was attending an event at the fraternity house, where he fell down a flight of stairs while highly intoxicated. When he was found, his prospective fraternity brothers repeatedly hit him in an effort to wake him. The members of the fraternity then waited 12 hours before calling emergency services, although they knew he was in need of medical attention. Tim’s father has gone on to state that those hours could have been crucial in saving his son’s life. Tim’s mother also claimed that the fraternity members tortured him the entire evening, stating that “nobody should consume that much alcohol.”

The family has announced a lawsuit against the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, all of its members, and the University itself over the wrongful death of their son. Playing a part in the case will be security footage from the night that Tim lost his life, and autopsy reports of Tim. In addition, some of the fraternity members are facing criminal charges, so text messages discussing hazing and high amounts of alcohol may be used as evidence. As of this writing, no specific figures for damages have been provided, and it was unclear whether the family’s attorney intended to bring the case to trial.