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Family Alleges University and Frat Ignored Known Hazing Traditions that Resulted in Son’s Death

Baton Rouge, La.,  August 16, 2018 – Today, the parents of Maxwell (Max) Gruver, the Louisiana State University (LSU) freshman who tragically died from alcohol poisoning as a result of hazing in 2017, filed a federal lawsuit against LSU, the local and national chapters of Phi Delta Theta, the housing corporation that owns Phi Delta Theta’s fraternity house at LSU, and members of the fraternity.  Max’s parents allege the hazing ritual that caused his death would never have taken place if LSU or Phi Delta Theta had responded appropriately to numerous complaints of hazing at Phi Delta Theta’s chapter at LSU in the years before Max’s death.

The Gruver family alleges in their lawsuit that LSU’s and Phi Delta Theta’s failure to end the tradition of hazing at the chapter was driven by a broken model of self-governance and outdated gender stereotypes about young men engaging in masculine rites of passage — in direct violation of Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination.  According to the family’s Complaint, because of LSU’s policy and practice of treating the hazing of male students less seriously than the hazing of female students, males participating in Greek Life face serious and substantial risks of injury and death, while female students pledging sororities do not.  LSU’s policy and practice meant that a sorority accused of hazing its pledges by making them sing songs and do sit-ups and putting whipped cream, syrup and eggs in their hair was given “Total Probation” by LSU – the most severe sanction LSU can impose, short of rescinding its recognition of the sorority – while Phi Delt’s chapter, which admitted to hazing in 2016, was only placed on interim suspension for a month.

“We refuse to accept that the events that caused Max’s death can be explained away as ‘boys being boys,’” said Mr. and Mrs. Gruver in a statement.  “That notion is deeply offensive and wrong-headed. LSU and Phi Delt knew dangerous hazing was taking place at Phi Delt’s LSU chapter for years, yet they continued to allow the chapter and its members to investigate and police themselves. This inaction allowed dangerous hazing traditions at the chapter to persist.  We’ve lost Max as result of those hazing traditions, and his loss has created a devastating impact that reaches not just us, but Max’s siblings, family, friends, and all who knew him.  Until institutions and national fraternities begin treating the hazing of young men as the serious offense that is, with real consequences for members and local chapters that engage in it, hazing and other dangerous misconduct at fraternities will continue.  And each year, more families like ours will have to suffer through these horrific tragedies.”

“Every year, and for decades, young men have died or suffered traumatic injuries pledging fraternities that are dangerous, yet glowingly promoted with false and misleading information by the partnerships between fraternities and universities,” said Douglas Fierberg, legal counsel for the Gruver family.  “A central purpose of this lawsuit is to compel LSU, Phi Delta Theta and other universities to eliminate dangerous hazing traditions, end the killing of young men, and stop lying to students and families who have the right to know information that may save lives.”

To learn more about this case and the Gruver’s fight to stop hazing, please visit The Max Gruver Foundation.

Wrong-way crash on LA21 kills Florida driver

A Florida driver died in a wrong-way head-on collision in Louisiana on Sunday, September 11 at 3 A.M. The crash also injured the other driver and a passenger in her car.

According to Louisiana State Police, the crash occurred on LA 21, roughly three miles south of Bogalusa.  Daniel Elwood, 25, of Tallahassee, Florida, was killed at the scene while Jodi Vasbinder, 17, of Covington, and Nathan Nicolasi, 19, were injured in the crash.

Trooper Dustin Dwight with Louisiana State Police said a recent investigation showed Elwood was going southbound in the northbound lane of LA 21 in a 2005 Hyundai Elantra. The car collided with the 2005 Chrysler Sebring that Vasbinder drove. Elwood was not wearing a seat belt while Vasbinder and Nicolasi were properly buckled up.

Vasbinder was flown by helicopter to North Oaks Medical Center in Hammond with moderate injuries. Nicolasi was brought by ambulance to Our Lady of Angels Hospital in Bogalusa with minor injuries. Blood samples from all involved in the accident were sent to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab for analysis, and the investigation is still ongoing.

Man killed in New Orleans pedestrian collision

WDSU reported on January 5 that a 28-year-old man passed away after a hit-and-run collision in New Orleans occurred at around 3:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day. Reports showed that the victim was dragged by the vehicle from the French Quarter up to the Westbank. He was identified by the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office as a 28-year-old man formerly from Omaha. He was waiting for an Uber ride near the French Quarter before the accident, a family of the victim told KETV NewsWatch 7.

The victim was struck by a black sedan on the corner of Decatur Street and Dumaine Street. Investigators revealed that his body was discovered by a motorist near Algers, which was approximately six miles from where the accident initially occurred.

The driver of the black sedan, which has four doors and tinted windows, is still at large. Police officials are doing everything they can to track down the driver in order to determine the cause of this horrible accident.

Baton Rouge crash kills parents and child

A two-vehicle accident on Interstate 10 near Bluebonnet Boulevard in Baton Rouge took the life of a young couple and their infant son at around 3:00 in the morning on November 28. The authorities said that the 56-year-old driver of a Freightliner box truck was traveling west on I-10 when he pulled onto the right shoulder of the interstate to make a phone call.

Upon re-entering the right traffic lane, he was struck from behind by a Ford F-150 driven by a 20-year-old man. The passenger of the Ford, a 22-year-old woman, suffered critical injuries and died at the scene. Their 2-month-old son, who was in a child seat facing rear, was brought to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center after sustaining serious injuries. He died later of his injuries.

The 56-year-old box truck driver suffered minor injuries and voluntarily took a breath test. No trace of alcohol was found.

The accident is still under investigation.

Missing Baton Rouge couple found dead at a truck stop

A couple from Baton Rouge was found strangled to death in the backseat of their pickup truck, which had been left at a rest stop in Hammond, Louisiana, on October 19 at around 11 p.m. The couple had previously been reported missing–police were sent to check their home about an hour before they were found–by their children, who were concerned after being unable to reach their parents by phone for some time.

The arrest warrant showed that the couple had been tied up and beaten in their home by the suspect, Ernesto Alonso, before he stole money from their safe and strangled them. He drove away in the couple’s pickup truck to dispose of their bodies.

Baton Rouge Police used a GPS system to track the missing pickup truck, which led to the discovery of the bodies. Reports said that a man was seen fleeing the scene. The 42-year-old suspect was found and arrested in Hollywood, Florida. He was reported to have worked for the couple as a handyman prior to the killing.

Alonso is facing four charges in Louisiana, where he will be extradited from Florida: two counts of first-degree murder and two more counts of second-degree kidnapping.

22-year-old motorcyclist killed after car fails to yield

Last September 24, Jacob Ward of Metairie passed away when his motorcycle hit a car after the car failed to yield on River Road in Old Jefferson. Louisiana State Police stated that the car’s driver, 23-year-old Blair Guidry, did not yield to the motorcycle at a stop sign while turning onto the road.

According to reports, Guidry stopped her car at the sign as she waited to turn onto River Road. While turning, she did not yield to Ward’s motorcycle, causing the crash. Ward was wearing a helmet when he hit the side of Guidry’s car, but he later died at the University Hospital in New Orleans.

A toxicology test is still pending for Ward. Guidry took a breath test and was cleared of intoxication.

The accident is still under investigation.

The death of a loved one is hard to accept, especially if it involves the negligence of someone else. Our team of wrongful death lawyers at Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm sends their sincerest condolences to Mr. Ward’s family and friends.

Father of seven dies after Baton Rouge shooting

Kendrick Ross, a 37-year-old resident of Baton Rouge, was found in his vehicle with a gunshot wound to his head last Saturday, September 19. He died at the hospital next morning.

According to Baton Rouge police Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, Ross was shot at around 5:45 p.m. at the 9400 block of Avis Avenue. The case is still under investigation and the motive and suspect remain unknown.

Ross’ widow, Kristin, said that she has no idea as to why her husband was shot dead. Kristin remembered the last time she talked to Ross. He said to her, “I’ll be home before it gets dark.” The widow also said that everything they did together revolved around their children. “Me and him had finally said we were gonna do something by ourselves, so we were gonna go on a cruise in three weeks,” she later said.

The personal injury lawyers at Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm send their deepest condolences to Kendrick Ross’ family and friends.

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