The death of a Penn State college fraternity student made headlines across the country, raising questions about hazing and who bears legal liability in this unique, eye-opening case.
Tim Piazza, a Penn State fraternity pledge, died after partaking in an initiation ritual that led him to consume large quantities of alcohol. Piazza’s highly intoxicated state led him to fall down a flight of stairs, causing him to suffer multiple injuries and eventually leading to his death. Piazza died two days after the Beta Theta Pi event in the surgical Intensive Care Unit of Hershey Medical Center due to a non-recoverable brain injury. Eighteen members of the fraternity are currently facing criminal charges in connection with Piazza’s death.
Piazza’s family, who plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the fraternity and the university, claim that the frat members should be held liable for their loved one’s death. They claim that the frat members intentionally supplied their son with a lethal amount of alcohol with full knowledge of the consequences. Piazza’s father, Jim Piazza, expressed these allegations during an interview on “Good Morning America,” asserting that Beta Theta Pi purposely wanted those pledging to drunk until they reached “alcohol-poisoning levels.”
“I think the individuals involved clearly bear the most responsibility,” he said. “If you read the timeline of what happened, they set out to feed these guys lethal amounts of alcohol from the outset. Here was intent there right from the beginning. At the end of the day, this was planned and orchestrated and I think they all need to be held accountable.”
He recalled that when the frat brothers found his son unconscious, they carried him upstairs, placed him on a couch and repeatedly struck him. Reports claim that they waited a total of 12 hours before calling authorities. Jim claims that these hours were very crucial to the survival of his son.
“This wasn’t just boys being boys,” he said. “This was men who intended to force-feed lethal amounts of alcohol into other young men. And what happened throughout the night was just careless disregard for human life. They basically treated our son as roadkill and a rag doll.”
The family claims that the fraternity tortured their loved one. As of now, they have refused to watch surveillance footage of their child’s last hours of life. Investigators say that the video consists of fraternity members slapping Piazza, throwing water on his face, sitting on him and rubbing his abdomen. Doctors calculate that the boy’s blood alcohol content level was between .28 and .38 percent when he fell down the stairs. The legal limit for driving while intoxicated is .08 percent.
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