(CN) – The families of college students who died in fraternity hazing rituals filed separate wrongful death actions in California and New York. Both involve students who allegedly drank themselves to death in separate garages on different coasts of the country.
The first case, filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, involves a student of Polytechnic State University pledging Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity.
The parents of freshman Carson Starkey say their son died of alcohol poisoning the day after his “big brothers” at Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) told him to drink a “brown bag” full of liquor bottles, while the frat officers chanted “puke and rally.”
In December 2008, older fraternity members took Carson and his fellow initiates to a garage in San Luis Obispo, according to the complaint. Frat members allegedly instructed the pledges to bring tarps inside to cover the couches, placed a bucket in the center of the room to collect vomit and gave the pledges 90 minutes to finish all the alcohol in their bags – and an additional bottle of Everclear for the group to share.
When the SAE members saw Carson drooling, wobbling and tripping, they put him in a car to drive him to a hospital, “first stripping him of his pledge pin and pledge book, reflecting unbridled loyalty to the Fraternity,” the lawsuit states.
But the frat members allegedly “aborted the trip” and instead stuck him alone “in a small utility room near the kitchen.”
He was found dead the next morning, his parents claim.
They say SAE formed a consortium with six other fraternities to buy insurance coverage with James R. Favor, an “exclusive broker of Lloyds of London high-risk insurance products in the fraternity industry.”
The insurer’s Web site claims to have handled more than 5,000 claims against fraternities resulting in $50 million in recoveries.
Carson’s family is suing SAE, its local Alpha Beta Chapter, nine named members and 25 unidentified frat brothers for wrongful death, negligence and violation of an anti-hazing law.
One week after the California lawsuit, the father of an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Geneseo took legal action against a different fraternity over another allegedly fatal hazing incident in Queens County Supreme Court.
SUNY undergrad Arman Partamian pledged the PIGS fraternity, also known as the “Orange Knights,” which was banned from campus after two students were hospitalized for binge drinking, the lawsuit claims.
But Arman’s father, Hagop Partamian, says the PIGS continued to operate in the garage of a house that belonged to another fraternity that had moved out after a drunken student died in a house fire.
The same landlords who rented to that frat allegedly rented to the PIGS.
Arman got alcohol poisoning after a day of drinking in February that kicked off with “beer football” and “dizzy bat” games in the early afternoon and a keg party at night, the complaint states.
“Arman was dangerously intoxicated, unable to walk,” his parents claim. He had to be carried to a bedroom in a nearby house, where he allegedly died from acute alcohol poisoning.
Arman’s father is suing the landlords and the six students who organized the events for $2.5 million in damages.
The Queens suit does not name the independent fraternity as a defendant.
Three of the former frat brothers also face charges of criminally negligent homicide.