Virginia-based Ferrum College and the Sigma Alpha Kappa fraternity have settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the family of a student who died while pledging in 2016.
Melissa Seamster French, whose son Michael Anthony Walker died during an off-campus party in April 2016, received $544,000 in a settlement paid by both the college and the brothers of the Sigma Alpha Kappa fraternity.
The lawsuit alleged that fraternity members subjected new pledges to multiple forms of hazing, including excessive alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation and paddling, among others.
On April 17, 2016 at an off-campus party hosted by the fraternity, court filings state that Walker consumed so much alcohol that he became sick and could not walk without help. Members of the fraternity resorted to pushing Walker around in a wheelchair and photographing him while he was incapacitated.
Later that night Walker was left alone and was only attended to by emergency responders. They took him to the Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where he died eight days later.
The lawsuit also alleged the college of not doing enough to train, supervise and discipline the fraternity, and to ensure that it complied with state regulations and best practices for hazing.
Ms. French initially sought $25 million in damages, receiving far less in the end.
Various fraternities and sororities on campuses across the country are currently grappling with lawsuits filed by both parents and students over issues ranging from toxic sexual cultures to hazing-related deaths.
Just last month, the parents of an Ohio University student who died while pledging the Epsilon chapter of Sigma Pi in 2018 filed a lawsuit alleging fraternity members of participating in severe hazing which led to the death of 18-year-old Collin Wiant.