$1,700,000: Hazing Incident Resulting in a Wrongful Death Settles For $1.7 Million

CASE DESCRIPTION: The plaintiffs, Tony and Sophia L. brought a wrongful death case against the Defendants, members of the UC Irvine chapter Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity. Their son, Kenny L., sustained fatal head injuries during a fraternity hazing ritual that was disguised as a tackle football game.

RESULT: $1,700,000.00

A freshman at Cal Poly Pomona, Kenny L. was studying to become a civil engineer. Having learned of the UC Irvine Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity, he and his friends wanted to open a chapter at Cal Poly Pomona to extend their legacy. Ten weeks into the pledge process, on August 28, 2005, a fraternity planned football game was held. It was really just a hazing ritual in disguise as a football game, with gang tackles, late hits and outnumbered teams targeted against the pledges. In the course of this game Kenny was rendered unconscious on the field. Paramedics were called and he was transported to Western Medical Center where he died shortly thereafter due to fatal head injuries.

Plaintiff’s contended the fraternity members were fully aware of the intended punishment the pledges were put through and thus Kenny’s head injury and death that resulted from this game should have never occurred.

Nevertheless, the Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity members failed to follow through with their responsibility to make sure that the anti hazing standards are not violated.

  • Full tackle game with no safety equipment
  • Actives & Alumni outnumbered pledges by as much as 4:1
  • Pledges forced to wear black sweats in summer
  • Late hits (after the play was over)
  • Multiple actives/alumni hitting a single pledge
  • Unsafe hits
  • Tackling/hitting pledges even if they didn’t have the ball
  • Water and other drinks withheld from pledges

In fact, the active and alumni fraternity members knew that the game was going to be anything but a typical football game, and was designed to be particularly physical as against the pledges.

Plaintiffs alleged a conspiracy theory against all individual fraternity brothers, and named them all individually as Defendants after it was discovered that the local and national fraternity carried no liability insurance. As a result, each individual fraternity brother’s parents’ homeowner’s polices of insurance were used to settle the case.

TYPE OF CASE: Wrongful Death

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: August 28, 2005 in Irvine, CA

PLAINTIFF’S AGE: 19

OCCUPATION: Student

PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS:
Richard A. Cohn & Casey R. Johnson
AITKEN * AITKEN * COHN
For Plaintiffs- Tony and Sophia L. parents of deceased Kenny L.

DEFENDANT’S ATTORNEYS:
Gopal S. Patel
PRINDLE, AMARO, GOETZ, HILLYARD, BARNES & REINHOLTZ, LLP
For Defendant-LAMBDA PHI EPSILON NATIONAL FRATERNITY, INC
Numerous additional counsel representing numerous individual fraternity members and their insurers.

MEDIATOR: Martin Handweiler of Judicate West


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