(CN) – The parents of a Florida State University student who died while pledging a fraternity last fall sued Pi Kappa Phi and several individuals Tuesday claiming they negligently allowed the young man to consume “overwhelming amounts of alcohol to the point of extreme intoxication.”
As recounted in the complaint filed in the Leon County Circuit Court, Andrew Coffey was 20 years old when he collapsed during a night of hazing at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house in early November. The cause of death was deemed to be acute alcohol poisoning.
Andrew’s parents, Thomas and Sandra Coffey, claim that while Pi Kappa Phi publicly stands against alcohol abuse and hazing, the FSU chapter’s liquor ban was lifted that night so that the pledges could drink from so-called “family bottles.”
In Andrew’s case, the couple says, the “family bottle” was filled with a 750ml bottle of 101 proof “Wild Turkey” bourbon.
They claim that on the night of his death, Andrew Coffey drank to the point of vomiting and passing out. They say that during the early morning hours he was still clearly alive and snoring loudly, when he was moved from a futon on the porch to a couch in the living room.
Sometime in the hours that followed, his heart stopped as his body struggled to metabolize the large amount of alcohol he had ingested. The next morning his lifeless body was discovered by another pledge, the complaint says.
According to Andrew’s aprents, “he had vomit on his face, his lips were blue and he was unresponsive.”
The pledge who found Coffey’s lifeless body waited 11 minutes before calling 9-1-1 during which time he called and texted fraternity members in a panic, the complaint says.
The medical examiner determined Coffey’s blood alcohol level at the time of his death to be .447 which is more than five times the legal limit in Florida.
David Bianchi, the Miami-based attorney representing the Coffeys, has handled hazing death cases in the past and was instrumental in the creation of anti-hazing laws in Florida.
He says, “It’s important to accomplish something meaningful for these families.”
In the case of the FSU chapter of Pi Kappa Phi, Bianchi says, “This was a fraternity that was totally out of control.”
He says it’s clear that despite efforts over the years to end hazing, the harsher penalties just aren’t working to deter these dangerous rituals.
“It’s our intention to put a stop to it once and for all,” he says.
A representative of Pi Kappa Phi said the fraternity does not comment on pending litigation.