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Alleged fatal frat hazing leads to wrongful death lawsuit

Fraternities are expected to provide social and charitable opportunities to college students. Unfortunately, however, hazing and physical humiliation of pledges and other students has tarnished their luster and has even led to deaths. The parents of a 20-year-old UC Riverside student, in fact, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Alpha Phi fraternity, which it holds is responsible for his death in an alleged hazing.

The family filed the cause of action against the fraternity in December. According to the victim's parents, the student died on September 16, 2018 after a hike on Mt. Rubidoux. They charge that this was part of a death march hazing ritual.

The mountain is in the western part of Riverside and has an elevation of 1,332 feet. Paved pathways are used by hikers, runners and bicyclists to can reach right below its summit.

The family also claims that the college junior underwent weeks, possibly even months, of other hazing rituals and events involving physical and mental torture and sleep deprivation before this hike. One ritual required him to eat an onion soaked in hot sauce in one sitting, which led to a trip to the hospital for treatment of heart problems.

The fraternity, its national corporation, and its local chapter violated California's laws against hazing and were negligent, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs charged that the fraternity and their agents knew or should have known that they placed the student in life-threating and harmful situations under coercion and abuse. The cause of death and the damages being sought were not cited.

The fraternity's national office said, at the time of the student's death, that it was investigating the circumstances of this death and suspended the fraternity's UCR chapter. UC Riverside banned the fraternity from its campus in the spring because of concerns over risk management. The university was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Families who suffer the loss of a loved one because of someone else's recklessness or negligence should seek legal assistance. An attorney can obtain evidence and provide skilled assistance with pursuing a wrongful death claim.

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