The family of a Virginia Commonwealth University fraternity pledge who died from alcohol poisoning in a 2021 hazing is suing the fraternity for $28 million.
A police investigation found that Adam Oakes, a 19-year-old who had received a bid to the Delta Chi fraternity, was told to drink a large bottle of whiskey in February 2021. The freshman from Loudoun County was found dead the next morning. The office of the chief medical examiner ruled Oakes’ death was caused by alcohol poisoning.
Courtney White, Oakes’ cousin, filed a wrongful death suit naming Delta Chi Fraternity Inc., Delta Chi Educational Foundation and the VCU chapter of Delta Chi on Monday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Six members of the fraternity were found guilty or pleaded guilty to misdemeanor hazing or providing alcohol to a minor. None of them received jail time. Charges against another five members were dropped.
All 11 of the individuals charged are named as defendants in the new lawsuit, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. They are: Jason Mulgrew, Andrew White, Alessandro Medina-Villanueva, Alexander Bradley, Benjamin Corado, Christian Rohrbach, Colin Tran, Enayat Sheikhzad, Quinn Kuby, Riley McDaniel and Robert Fritz. Alec Mingorance, who served on the fraternity’s executive committee, according to the lawsuit, and Aaron Gilbert, the chapter’s adviser, are named as well, the newspaper reported.
“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.
VCU expelled Delta Chi in June 2021, and in September of last year, the university settled with the Oakes family for nearly $1 million.
“Too many families like ours have lost their sons and daughters to these senseless and dangerous hazing rituals,” the Oakes 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.”
Part of the agreement reached between the university and Oakes’ family required VCU to make additional changes to fraternity and sorority culture at the school.
“This is a blueprint to foster a safer and healthier community for students who are part of fraternities and sororities and to create a climate of respect and inclusion that is needed for academic success,” said the university and family in a joint statement shared in a news release issued at the time.
The monetary settlement itself totaled $995,000. Alongside that, the agreement stipulated that VCU students would complete a dozen credit hours and fulfill other eligibility requirements before joining a fraternity or sorority at the school. It also prohibited alcohol at events or activities hosted by fraternities or sororities where new members would be attending, and generally tightened regulations surrounding alcohol either served or consumed at functions put on by student organizations.