USU accused of ignoring fraternity’s hazing and alcohol activities!

Legal news for Utah wrongful death attorney’s. Utah State University sued for ignoring fraternity’s hazing and underage drinking.

Utah wrongful death attorney- Utah State University accused of ignoring Greek system activities which a Sigma Nu fraternity pledge dead from alcohol poisoning.

Logan, UT—The parents of a deceased student and fraternity pledge filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 in Logan’s 1st District Court against the University of Utah (USU). The wrongful death lawsuit alleges the university turned a “blind eye” to the ongoing drug and alcohol abuse and hazing activities, which is allegedly prevalent in USU’s Greek system. Michael Starks, 18, a freshman at USU, died when he consumed so much vodka during a Sigma Nu pledge period, it reached toxic levels and left him with alcohol poisoning. Michael died later that night at the Sigma Nu fraternity house, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.

The lawsuit claims the Sigma Nu fraternity is known for misconduct, alcohol-related suicides such as hanging, underage drinking, arson, vandalism, stealing, engaging false fire alarms, and assault. The allegations stem from 10 years worth of Logan City police reports before Starks tragic and untimely death, and interviews with other fraternity members. In addition, the suit accuses the USU chartered fraternity of not following their own chapter rules and principals, in which they allege they adamantly follow. The wrongful death lawsut also argues USU has a legal obligation to ensure student organizations are operating within the legal and regulatory boundaries, especially if the school is going to promote its students to join the organizations. The university reportedly encouraged students to join fraternities and sororities through the slogan “think Greek”, which they claim is an integral part of campus life. The university also failed to warn students and parents of the dangerous activities their fraternities partake in. The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages from USU and the state of Utah. The family of Michael has already reached and out-of-court settlement with the national organizations of Sigma Nu and Chi Omega sorority, whose members participated in Michaels hazing activities.

Starks untimely death resulted from illegal hazing activities, in which Chi Omega sisters captured him, tied his hand together with duct tape, and gave him vodka at a Sigma Nu initiation ritual. Logan police officials charge 12 USU students and both their Greek organizations with hazing. Prosecutors dismissed the hazing charges and ordered five students to jail for supplying the alcohol and hiding the vodka bottle. As a result of the death and hazing violations, USU closed both Sigma Nu and Chi Omega organizations. The fraternities are not owned or created by the universities in which they reside at; instead they are chartered by their national organizations to the institutions in which they establish membership at. Through their national organizations, the chapters are required to withhold their ideals of leadership, community service, and scholarship.

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley-Legal news for Utah lawyers specializing in wrongful death claims.