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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
David Matthews

Family sues fraternity for $28 million over student’s death in Virginia hazing incident

The family of a college student who died in a hazing incident in 2021 is suing a fraternity for $28 million.

Freshman pledge Adam Oakes, 19, was found dead in February 2021 after attending an initiation party at the Delta Chi fraternity chapter at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The cause of death was alcohol poisoning, and Oakes’ family believes he was forced to drink a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey. Ultimately, 11 frat members were arrested and six later pleaded guilty to several charges. Five had their cases dropped.

The pledges were told to throw up outside the frat house, but Oakes did not and was found on the floor the next morning and pronounced dead. He had a blood-alcohol content level of .419%, according to the lawsuit.

Delta Chi Fraternity Inc., Delta Chi Educational Foundation and the VCU chapter of Delta Chi are named as defendants in the suit, which was formally filed by Oakes’ cousin Courtney White.

“We know that the filing of these lawsuits will not bring Adam back, but we are hopeful that by holding Delta Chi, the VCU chapter of Delta Chi and each of the individual fraternity brothers accountable, it will send a message that echoes across America’s national Greek organizations and college campuses that change is coming,” the lawsuit states, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Oakes’ family previously settled with Virginia Commonwealth for $995,000 in September 2022.

“Too many families like ours have lost their sons and daughters to these senseless and dangerous hazing rituals,” the family said in a statement. “Our hope is that one day we and all the other families who have been impacted by hazing can look forward to a day when such senseless deaths no longer occur.”

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