LSU Fraternity Pledge Late Family Receives Settlement
The family of an 18-year-old Louisiana State University fraternity promise whose alcohol-related death after he was forced to chug 190-proof liquor prompted law changes in two states will be awarded a $6.1 million settlement in a lawsuit dollars received the case.
A jury last week awarded the verdict to Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver, Maxwell Gruver’s parents. Her attorney told Law&Crime the settlement would greatly help the couple, who founded the Max Gruver Foundation, which includes speaking to college and high school students across the country about the dangers of bullying.
“The verdict sends a strong message to hazers or would-be hazers,” said Don Cazayoux. “This will give the Gruvers another tool in their arsenal during their campaign to stop bullying.”
Guver died of alcohol poisoning during a defilement ritual on September 14, 2017. He and other pledges were questioned about the Brotherhood and the Greek alphabet, pelted with hot sauce and mustard, and made to do planks and wall sits.
Incorrect answers to the older fraternity brothers’ questions were punished by being forced to drink hard liquor. Gruver’s sworn brother could be heard messing up the Greek alphabet and a member of Phi Delta Theta repeatedly making him drink.
An autopsy revealed that Max died of “acute alcohol poisoning with aspiration” and had a blood alcohol content of 0.495, more than six times the legal intoxication limit for driving. Ten fraternity members were later arrested and criminally charged.
One was sentenced to a suspended sentence of 2 1/2 years for involuntary manslaughter. Two were serving misdemeanor jail sentences after pleading no contest. A fourth was not prosecuted.
The advocacy of Max’s family has prompted the Louisiana legislature to take action. In May 2018, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the Max Gruver Act and other bills that would increase penalties for those who do not seek help for someone in need and require colleges and universities to provide assistance to those who do report, offer education and prevention training and protective measures.
The family filed a federal lawsuit against LSU in 2018, saying the college and local and national chapters of Phi Delta Theta ignored complaints of fraternity bullying years before Gruver’s death, family attorneys said.
It was driven by a “broken model of self-government and outdated gender stereotypes about young men engaging in male rites of passage — in direct violation of Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination,” the attorneys said.
“We refuse to accept that the events leading up to Max’s death can be explained away with ‘boys are boys,'” the parents said in a statement. “This notion is deeply offensive and misguided. LSU and Phi Delt knew that dangerous harassment had been taking place in the LSU chapter of Phi Delt for years, yet they continued to allow the chapter and its members to conduct their own investigations and police surveillance. This inaction allowed dangerous traditions of bullying to persist in the chapter. We lost Max to these vexatious traditions, and his loss has had a devastating impact that not only touches us, but Max’s siblings, family, friends and everyone who knew him.”
LSU has banned the fraternity from campus until 2033. And in a post on its website, LSU outlined its policy on bullying and offered resources for reporting.
“Hazing is illegal and strictly prohibited at LSU,” the statement said. “No one can ‘consent’ to being bullied, and all allegations of bullying will be investigated by law enforcement and pursued to the full extent of the LSU Code of Conduct for Students.”
LSU did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment on the ruling.
In January, the parents of a 20-year-old sophomore who died of alcohol poisoning at Bowling Green State University settled their 2021 wrongful death lawsuit with the school for $2.9 million.
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https://lawandcrime.com/high-profile/family-of-lsu-fraternity-pledge-who-died-after-chugging-190-proof-liquor-in-hazing-ritual-gets-6-1-million-verdict/ LSU Fraternity Pledge Late Family Receives Settlement