(NewsNation) — The family of Adam Oakes, a former Virginia Commonwealth University student who died in a hazing incident, has sued the Delta Chi fraternity for $28 million, according to local media reports.
Oakes, 19, died in 2021 of alcohol intoxication at a Delta Chi initiation party. A police investigation found the college freshman was told to drink a large bottle of whiskey in February 2021. He was found dead the next morning.
Six fraternity members were found or pleaded guilty to misdemeanor hazing or providing alcohol to a minor. None of them received jail time, and charges against another five members were dropped.
Defendants in the lawsuit, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, are Delta Chi Fraternity Inc., the Delta Chi Educational Foundation — a nonprofit that financially assists the fraternity — and the local chapter.
Courtney White, Oakes’ cousin, filed the wrongful death suit Monday, the newspaper reported.
“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.”
Virginia Commonwealth University expelled Delta Chi from its campus in June 2021. The university itself settled with the Oakes family for nearly $1 million.
Delta Chi Fraternity, Inc. said in a statement to NewsNation that “what the Oakes family has experienced is something no family should have to endure,” but reiterated that “the individuals responsible for the death of Adam were found guilty and sentenced in a court of law.”
“The fraternity cooperated fully with law enforcement, permanently expelled all individuals found guilty in Adam’s death and closed the chapter,” the statement said.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch found in an investigation that Delta Chi struggled with discipline in the years before Oakes’ death, and students were accused of hazing, sexual assault and illegal parties, among other accusations.
Oakes’ family’s suit maintains that the fact that the traditions continued for years was proof of “negligent and reckless adherence to dangerous rituals.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.