Frat Pledge Says Hazing Ruptured His Spleen
ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) - A fraternity pledge suffered a ruptured spleen from being kicked repeatedly during a Sigma Gamma hazing at the State University of New York at Oswego, he claims in court.
Liam McDonald sued the Sigma Gamma Fraternity, 10 members of the fraternity and the owners of the frat house, in Albany County Supreme Court.
The college is not a party to the complaint.
McDonald, a sophomore, claims he suffered a ruptured spleen and internal bleeding after being kicked in the lower back and ribs during an evening of fraternity pledging.
"As a result of being hazed on the evening of Oct. 8, 2013, the plaintiff experienced great pain and difficulty breathing but none of the defendants offered or arranged for medical assistance," McDonald says in the complaint.
Two of the defendants are officers of the fraternity; six are members of the fraternity's Pledge Committee.
The complaint says the fraternity, founded in 1947, is "considered a 'problem child' by the Oswego community" due to its "notorious reputation for unlawful and unruly behavior."
Oswego, about 40 miles north of Syracuse, borders Lake Ontario in north-central New York. SUNY-Oswego, a four-year liberal arts college, sits right on the lake, west of downtown.
Sigma Gamma has had a fraternity house in the city since 1958, according to the lawsuit. In 2002, it moved from its longtime home after city officials revoked its certificate of occupancy.
The new house continues to generate police calls sparked by community complaints, according to the lawsuit.
McDonald says he went to the fraternity house with six others "to participate in pledging activities."
The fraternity "has long-standing recruitment and initiation rituals for prospective members or 'pledges' that are conducted by its agents, officers and members," the complaint states.
Included in the activities are alleged "acts of hazing" that McDonald says left him with "severe and serious personal injuries."
McDonald says he was kicked in the lower back after being told to get on his hands and knees in the basement and follow the sound of a stick while blindfolded. Later, he says, he was kicked three times in his left lower rib and stomped on his lower back as he lay blindfolded on the attic floor.
He says he was injured by hazing, which the state penal code defines as "conduct which, in the course of another person's initiation into or affiliation with any organization, creates a substantial risk of physical injury to such other person."
McDonald says he suffered multifocal splenic rupture, a large hematoma, peritoneum injury, abdominal and chest pain, internal bleeding and pleural effusion.
The injuries were caused "solely by reason of the recklessness, carelessness and negligence of the defendants," McDonald claims, and says he shares no blame.
The fraternity and its members breached the duty of care they owed to him, McDonald says. They also breached their legal duty not to engage in hazing, in violation of the penal code and the SUNY-Oswego Hazing Policy.
The fraternity is a recognized student group at the college.
The Syracuse Post-Standard reported this year that McDonald filed a complaint against the state in New York's Court of Claims, alleging that the college approved the group but failed to supervise its pledging activities or to require that the fraternity carry liability insurance.
The newspaper said the college declined comment on the complaint but issued a written statement saying it "adamantly prohibits" hazing.
Fraternity members named in McDonald's Supreme Court complaint are its president, Connor Crawley of Orange County; its pledge master, Michael Graziano of Nassau County; and Pledge Committee members Matthew Hausman of Nassau County, Michael DeSousa of Westchester County, Corey Vosefski of Suffolk County, Erik Vik of Suffolk County, Chris Lounsbury of Orange County and Harley Redlin of Montgomery County.
Also named are fraternity members Richard Kong of Putnam County and Tyler Prince of Monroe County. Prince acted as McDonald's "Big Brother" at the fraternity.
David J. and Mary K. Wahrendorf, who own the house at 110 W. Bridge St. that the fraternity leases, also are defendants. The complaint says they should have exercised "reasonable care to guard against foreseeable dangers arising from the use of the property."
McDonald claims the Wahrendorfs had been "expressly advised" by the city of Oswego before the incident that their property "could not be used for any fraternity activities."
McDonald is represented by William Ryan Jr., with Tabner, Ryan and Keniry, in Albany.
On its Facebook page, Sigma Gamma Fraternity says it is "dedicated to community service, leadership development and networking opportunities for young men attending SUNY-Oswego."
"Since our founding in 1947, Sigma Gamma has been a positive contributor to the Oswego community and will continue to strive toward higher heights of scholarship and goodwill today," it adds.