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Fatal hazing lawsuit at U.S. university ends with nearly $3M settlement

Eight former fraternity members previously either pleaded or were found guilty on various charges
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FILE - Cory and Shari Foltz, the parents of a Bowling Green State University student who died in an alleged hazing incident, look on while Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson, left, takes questions from the media at the Wood County Courthouse, April 29, 2021, in Bowling Green, Ohio. The family of the student will receive nearly $3 million from Bowling Green State University to settle its lawsuit. A copy of the agreement announced Monday, Jan. 23, 2023 says the family of Stone Foltz and the university will work together to eliminate hazing on college campuses. (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune via AP, Fille)

The family of a student who died from alcohol poisoning while pledging a fraternity will receive nearly $3 million from Bowling Green State University to settle its hazing-related lawsuit, according to an agreement announced Monday.

As part of the settlement, the family of Stone Foltz and the university both said they will work to address and eliminate hazing on college campuses. Foltz’s parents have started a foundation focused on hazing education and have spoke to students at other universities about its dangers.

“We can continue our fight saving lives,” said Shari Foltz, whose son died died of alcohol poisoning in March 2021.

A university investigation found that the 20-year-old had attended a fraternity initiation event where there was a tradition of new members finishing or attempting to finish a bottle of alcohol, according to a university investigation.

Foltz, from Delaware, Ohio, was found unconscious after members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity dropped him off at his apartment. He died three days after he was put on life support.

Both sides said in a joint statement issued Monday that they will be forever impacted by his death.

“This resolution keeps the Foltz family and BGSU community from reliving the tragedy for years to come in the courtroom and allows us to focus on furthering our shared mission of eradicating hazing in Ohio and across the nation. Leading these efforts in our communities is the real work that honors Stone,” the statement said.

The settlement with the university is on top of more than $7 million in payouts made to the family by the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and those who had a role in the hazing, according to court documents.

Eight former fraternity members either pleaded guilty or were found guilty on various charges, including reckless homicide, hazing and giving alcohol to a minor.

Two of the eight, though, were acquitted last year of more serious charges including involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide. Their defense attorneys had argued Foltz was not forced or required to finish the entire bottle and made that decision on his own.

In their lawsuit, Foltz’s parents accused the school of failing to stop hazing in fraternities and sororities despite being aware of it.

Their attorney, Rex Elliott, said on Monday that the university is making an effort to prevent another tragedy from happening and that colleges nationwide must play a role in reforming how fraternities and sororities bring in new members.

“Greek organizations will not survive if hazing doesn’t come to an end,” Elliott said. “Hazing and pledge programs are a relic of the past.”

After the hazing death, Bowling Green expelled Pi Kappa Alpha and said it would never again be recognized on campus. The university also developed a plan to address anti-hazing efforts, including hiring a prevention coordinator and making it easier for students to tell the school about hazing.

Stone Foltz’s death also spurred changes beyond Bowling Green, including a new state law that created tougher criminal penalties for hazing — a proposal first made after an Ohio University student died in 2018 after ingesting nitrous oxide at a fraternity house.

—John Seewer, The Associated Press

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