Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mom Blames Fraternity for Hazing Death

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) - A grieving mother claims the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity at Radford University killed her son by making him drink a fatal amount of Crown Royal, the fraternity's "family drink," in a hazing ritual.

Mary Mason sued the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, its Omicron-Omega Chapter, seven frat members - but not the university - on behalf of her late son, Samuel Harris Mason, in Fairfax County Court.

Mason claims that "chapter officers and members coerced Samuel to consume fatal quantities of his 'family drink,' rendering him helpless and in need of emergency medical care, which defendants failed to obtain."

Instead, Mason says, the fraternity members carried her son to his apartment, where he was found dead, "having vomited in the bed where he had been placed," with a blood alcohol content of .48 percent.

The complaint states: "Had Samuel received timely proper care, instead of having been removed from Omicron-Omega House, as he was succumbing to alcohol poisoning, suffering and slowly dying, he would have survived unharmed."

Earlier that evening, Mason says, her son arrived at the Omicron-Omega house for Big Brother week, a part of pledging a fraternity which involves "the consumption of alcohol by the pledges, all of whom were under the lawful age of consumption."

Mason claims Omicron-Omega has a tradition of giving pledges alcohol to drink in 3- and 5-gallon red gas cans, labeled "Drink Maggot Drink."

Samuel Mason's "Big Brother," defendant Dustin Moore, encouraged Mason to finish a bottle of the "family drink," Mary Mason says.

"Samuel died from acute alcohol poisoning, with a blood alcohol content later determined to be .048 percent. As he struggled to survive prior to and after being abandoned by the individual defendants, Samuel's blood alcohol content was likely far higher," according to the complaint.

She says that Moore and his co-defendants, Omicron president Scott Cothren and members Ryan Lawson, Chadwick Evancho, Christopher Pizzi, William Burke and Louis Trible, were charged with hazing and purchasing alcohol for a minor. They all pleaded guilty except for Lawson, whose case has been continued, according to the complaint.

The mother adds that Radford revoked the chapter's recognition, but Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) tried to cover up the event.

"The day after Samuel died, representatives from TKE arrived on Radford's campus to meet with the Omicron-Omega chapter, and, showing no remorse over Samuel's death, instructed the TKE members in a 'code of silence,' instructing them to refrain from making public statements and encouraging a cover-up and non-cooperation with the police," Mason says in her complaint.

The complaint cites several studies with alarming statistics of alcohol poisoning deaths among fraternity pledges.

"It is widely reported and well known among Greek organizations that at least one student has died in fraternity pledge activities every year since 1970," according to the complaint.

Mason says that TKE should have been aware of these statistics, but instead the fraternity has been "involved in numerous hazing and/or misuse of alcohol and drug incidents."

She seeks punitive damages for wrongful death.

She is represented by Peter Grenier, with Bode Grenier, of Washington, D.C.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.