Fraternity Blamed in Penn State Death Settles With Family

PHILADELPHIA (CN) — The parents of a Penn State University student who died after a night of pledge hazing announced a settlement Tuesday with the national organization for the fraternity Beta Theta Pi.

Jim and Evelyn Piazza stand by as Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, left, announces the results of an investigation into the death of their son Timothy Piazza, seen in photo at right, a Penn State University fraternity pledge, during a May 5, 2017, press conference in Bellefonte, Pa. Timothy Piazza had toxic levels of alcohol in his body and was badly injured in a series of falls, authorities said in announcing criminal charges against members of the organization and the frat itself. (Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times via AP)

Attorneys at the law firm Kline and Specter announced the settlement Tuesday jointly with Beta Theta Pi, but declined to publicize how much money the deal includes for Jim and Evelyn Piazza, whose 19-year-old son, Tim Piazza, died last year after falling down the stairs while intoxicated.

What the statement does describe is a 17-point program that Beta Theta Pi will follow to improve safety. As part of an effort to go alcohol- and substance-free by 2020, Beta Theta Pi said that chapters will face stiff penalties for future instances of hazing.

“That the Piazza family has had to endure the loss of their beloved son and brother, Tim, remains one of the greatest disappointments and darkest hours in Beta’s history,” S. Wayne Kay, general secretary and chairman of the Board at Beta Theta Pi, said in a statement. “It is heartbreaking and numbing to know our former members let Tim and his family down in such a tragic way.”

A New Jersey native, Tim Piazza had an engineering major at Penn when in February 2017 he participated in a series of pledge drinking stations set up by Beta members, as well as a basement event involving rapid consumption of alcohol.

The video security system at the frat house recorded Piazza stumbling to a couch on the first floor before falling down a flight of stairs. The student was carried back upstairs but spent the night in evident pain, most of it on the couch as fraternity brothers took ineffective and even harmful steps to address his condition.

Members of the fraternity then waited 40 minuted to summon an ambulance after finding Piazza unconscious in the basement the next morning.

Piazza was treated for a fractured skull and shattered spleen, but he later died at the hospital. His blood-alcohol level was estimated to have peaked at three or four times the legal limit for driving.

Though the state brought criminal charges against several students, a judge dismissed the most serious of charges, including manslaughter counts, last week.

Tom Kline, an attorney for the Piazzas, noted in a statement that his clients are determined to prevent “hazing injury and death in Greek life.”

“By this settlement, the Piazzas and Beta help to establish a baseline for the new norm of fraternity pledging and fraternity life at universities and colleges in the United States,” Kline added.

The settlement coincides with a broader effort to stem alcohol abuse in fraternities. On Aug. 27, the the North-American Interfraternity Conference voted with near unanimity to prohibit drinks with an alcohol content of 15 percent or more from fraternity chapters and events, unless it is served by licensed third-party vendors.

More than 6,100 chapters on 800 campuses in the United States and Canada belong to the conference, and must implement the rule by Sept. 1, 2019.

%d bloggers like this: