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Family sues fraternity for $28M over pledge's hazing death

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 and was found dead the next morning.

RICHMOND, Va. — 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.

VCU expelled Delta Chi in June 2021, and in September, the university settled with the Oakes family for nearly $1 million.

The family released the following statement regarding the lawsuit: 

"This week our attorneys filed a lawsuit against Delta Chi Fraternity, The VCU Chapter of Delta Chi, and the individual fraternity brothers who were responsible for Adam’s death.  Too many families like ours have lost their sons and daughters to these senseless and dangerous hazing rituals.  Too often, the people and organizations responsible for those deaths have escaped responsibility and accountability.  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.  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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