On September 13, 2017, Max Gruver and his pledge brothers were called to the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house at LSU to participate in a hazing ritual. The pledges were quizzed on the fraternity and the Greek alphabet, pelted with hot sauce and mustard and forced to do “planks” and “wall sits.” Wrong answers to the older fraternity brothers’ questions were met with the penalty of being forced to chug hard liquor. Max’s pledge brother could hear him messing up the Greek alphabet and a member of Phi Delta Theta making him drink repeatedly.
Sadly, Max would not survive the hazing by his fraternity. He passed away at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital with an astounding blood alcohol content of .495, more than six times the legal intoxication level for driving. An autopsy showed Max died of “acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration.” It became clear that the actions of Phi Delta Theta fraternity brothers contributed to Max’s passing. Ten of the fraternity members would later be arrested and charged criminally. One would be indicted by a grand jury for negligent homicide and three would be indicted for hazing.
Max’s family has suffered an unexpected tragedy. However, they are seeking to produce positive changes from their loss, so that no other family must endure a similar experience. They created the Max Gruver Foundation to combat excessive alcohol consumption, bullying, and hazing in college. The Max Gruver Foundation hopes to strengthen the laws across the country pertaining to hazing, as well as implement regulations colleges should be enforcing.
A primary goal of the foundation is to increase transparency, making fraternities and sororities disclose hazing incidents, excessive drinking, or penalties they’ve received. The hope is that these disclosures would permit parents and prospective members to make informed decisions while choosing a fraternity or sorority. If they see a long history of violations, they can choose to steer clear of that organization. The Max Gruver Foundation believes transparency and negative attention would cause Greek organizations to avoid engaging in bad behavior.
The Max Gruver Foundation also seeks to solve a critical dilemma often facing fraternity members. When illicit behavior results in a medical emergency, fear of getting in trouble produces a hesitance to get help. A delay in seeking medical attention could be the difference between life and death. Thus, the Foundation hopes to bridge the gap between serious legal consequences for wrongdoing and amnesty for doing the right thing by seeking help.
The advocacy of Max’s family has spurred the Louisiana legislature to take action. In May of 2018, Governor John Bel Edwards signed the Max Gruver Act and a set of anti-hazing bills into law. This legislation has increased penalties and fines for individuals engaged in hazing, as well as created fines for the organizations themselves.
The criminal justice system is currently prosecuting the individuals responsible for Max’s death. Max’s family has also filed a suit against the university and Phi Delta Theta for turning a blind eye to violations and hazing incidents for years. Max’s family is hopeful these actions will result in significant changes to this culture and protect future college students. The Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm is proud to represent the Gruver family and seek justice for Max.
To carry forward Max Gruver’s legacy and promote positive changes to our laws, schools, and Greek organizations, please donate to the Max Gruver Foundation here.