Cooper Schall & Levy discusses a recent wrongful death suit filed against a Penn State fraternity.

Wrongful Death Suit Filed Against Penn State Fraternity

If a person dies as the result of someone else’s negligent or intentional action, then that person’s estate or family members may file a wrongful death claim. This is exactly what was done by the parents of Tim Piazza after their son died at a Pennsylvania State University fraternity party back in February of 2017. A settlement was reached with the fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, as well as the university. Now, Piazza’s parents are going after 28 former members of the fraternity.

Details of the Wrongful Death Suit

Tim Piazza was a sophomore engineering student from New Jersey when he died on February 2017. Piazza was at a fraternity pledge party where he consumed large amounts of alcohol as part of a hazing ritual. Later, Piazza fell down a flight of stairs. Surveillance video from the night of Piazza’s death that was revealed in court showed Piazza moving through a drinking gauntlet as they chugged alcohol. The video also showed him in the early hours of the morning falling in the fraternity house and dropping to his knees while clutching an injured head. No one was seen trying to help him, and no one made a call for help for almost 12 hours. Piazza later died.

Piazza’s death resulted in dozens of Beta Theta Pi fraternity members facing criminal charges. Most of the serious charges, such as involuntary manslaughter, were thrown out by the Centre County Court. However, 23 of the fraternity’s former members entered pleas to charges that included hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors.

Piazza’s parents previously reached a settlement with both the University and Beta Theta Pi without filing a lawsuit. The settlement agreements both include several non-monetary terms imposed to help make Penn State safer for other students. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, the university is to encourage fraternities to have a non-member adult living in their houses and also have the fraternities consider the installation of security cameras on their premises. Additionally, the university is to have educational and training opportunities regarding alcohol consumption and hazing.

Earlier this year, Piazza’s parents filed suit against 28 individual members of the fraternity, including the then fraternity president and pledge master, in what their legal counsel explains is an opportunity to hold those individuals accountable for planning and participating in the reckless hazing activities that resulted in Piazza’s death. Additionally, the security company, St. Moritz Security Systems, Inc., previously responsible for monitoring parties for the university’s interfraternity council, was named in the suit. The lawsuit accuses the fraternity members of acting negligently and recklessly when they coerced or encouraged Piazza to consume dangerous amounts of alcohol that directly caused his intoxication resulting in him falling and sustaining injuries leading to his death.

Piazza’s parents are seeking monetary damages from this suit. If successful, the judgments against the defendants would be paid from assets they have now or will have in the future. Their parents’ assets would not be on the hook. However, the homeowner insurance policies for the parents could be made available for some defendants if the policy covers negligence of individuals living in the home.

Wrongful Death Attorneys

If you or a loved one has died due to the negligence or reckless actions or inaction of someone else, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Such a loss is truly devastating. Cooper Schall & Levy are dedicated wrongful death attorneys committed to holding negligent parties responsible for the damage they have caused. Contact us today.