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FutureStarrLouisiana Jury Awards $6.1 Million to Parents of @LSU Student Who Was Hazed
The parents of a Louisiana State University student who died from a hazing incident were awarded $6.1 million in their wrongful death lawsuit. With this award, they can continue to honor their son's memory by educating youth about the risks associated with hazing.
In addition to the jury's award, the family will also receive $100,000 for pain and suffering. This sum represents a considerable sum for a family that has already reached an out-of-court settlement with most of the defendants in this case.
On Tuesday, a Louisiana jury awarded $6.1 million to the parents of LSU student Max Gruver. Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver sought compensation for their son's death after being made to consume an excessive amount of alcohol during a hazing ritual.
The family filed a lawsuit against several fraternity members, including Ryan Matthew Isto who was involved in the incident. Although trial was set for February, court records show that due to settlement between the frat member and Gruvers, judge dismissed their case.
On Sept. 13th, 2017 members of Phi Delta Theta fraternity conducted a hazing ritual called Bible Study at their Baton Rouge house that culminated in Max Gruver succumbing to alcohol poisoning within 24 hours after participating. As part of this ordeal known as Bible Study, pledges were quizzed on their Greek heritage and asked to drink excessive amounts of 190-proof grain alcohol known as Diesel if they answered incorrectly.
An autopsy revealed Gruver had a blood-alcohol level of 0.495 percent, more than six times the legal limit in Louisiana. Furthermore, his system contained THC--the chemical found in marijuana--which is illegal under Louisiana law.
After being summoned to the frat house, Gruver and other pledges were warned they would be hazed by fraternity members. According to police reports, during this ordeal the fraternity members made them consume large amounts of Diesel liquor while quizzing them on their fraternity history and Greek alphabet.
Once they had finished drinking their 190-proof alcohol, fraternity members instructed the pledges to lie down and lick each other on the backs. Additionally, they made them sit on the ground while giving each other a hard slap.
While some pledges were able to rise from the floor, others such as Max Gruver could not. He was taken to a hospital in Baton Rouge and unfortunately passed away from alcohol poisoning, aspiration, and other complications.
A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the fraternity, its parent company and several of its members. The suit alleges negligence on behalf of the fraternity leadership in hazing pledges as well as university failure to protect students from such dangers on campus. Since Max Gruver's parents went on a nationwide tour to speak out against hazing and urge other schools to do the same; California lawmakers have passed several anti-hazing laws in response.
In May 2018, a Louisiana jury awarded $6.1 million to the parents of an LSU student who died in a fraternity hazing incident. His parents had sued both the fraternity and several other parties involved in the case, contending their son's death was caused by negligence on behalf of the fraternity.
Max Gruver's parents filed a suit in federal courtroom in Baton Rouge, Louisiana alleging fraternity negligence caused their son's death and sought compensation for both pain and suffering as well as loss of consortium with him.
Boyer was accused of first degree murder, a capital offense punishable by death. Under Louisiana law, defendants in capital cases must have two specially-qualified counsel to represent them; however, there is no such requirement in non-capital cases.
While Boyer was in prison, the State of Louisiana failed to fund his capitally-certified counsel for five years. During this period, his mental state and the loss of a key witness caused his speedy-trial rights to be violated.
Boyer's trial was held seven years after his crime, which is presumptively prejudicial to speedy-trial defendants. As a result, Boyer filed for vacate of his convictions and asserted that the State had violated his speedy-trial rights by failing to fund his counsel for five years.
The State maintained that Boyer's speedy-trial rights had not been violated as his trial delay wasn't caused by an ineffective assertion of them, but rather by Boyer's pattern of avoidance to have his charges dismissed.
The State maintains that Boyer's trial delay did not prejudice his defense, as the key witness, William Gallier, was not lost to witness testimony stating he saw Boyer commit the murder. Furthermore, it maintains that Boyer's confession and other evidence were sufficient to prove his guilt.
The State also asserted that the jury in Boyer's trial reached a unanimous verdict. Citing a 1972 Supreme Court decision, they maintained non-unanimous jury verdicts are not constitutional and Louisiana's non-unanimity rule is not invalidated under the Constitution.
According to The Advocate, a jury recently awarded $6.1 million to the parents of an LSU student who died following a fraternity hazing incident. This award was based on their claim that the fraternity was partially responsible for their son's death.
Although a jury found Phi Delta Theta partially responsible for Max's death, none of the other students who took part in hazing were held accountable. Furthermore, they could not determine whether Louisiana law prohibited such activity.
But the jury did agree that Max's hazing was a grave violation of his right to life and his family should receive damages for all the pain and suffering he endured during and after it.
In many states, felony defendants can only be found guilty if all twelve jurors find them guilty. If only one or two do not believe the defendant is guilty, the case may end in a mistrial.
This rule was created during Jim Crow era Southern states to silence Black jurors and weaken their civic power. By allowing 10-2 and 11-1 verdicts in felony criminal cases, courts could muffle any dissenting voices from Black jurors who might have supported innocence for defendants.
That rule is now seen as a violation of the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of fair trial. In 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that non-unanimous verdicts violated that right. While Louisiana changed its law to require unanimous verdicts in 2016, it didn't reverse split jury convictions like Ramos' until now.
More than 1,000 prisoners remain behind bars who were convicted of crimes after the Ramos ruling but before it became retroactive. These individuals are trying to use the Ramos decision as grounds for filing post-conviction relief applications in Louisiana state courts.
Meanwhile, the Louisiana legislature is debating a bill that could allow some old split jury cases to be revisited and potentially granted parole. However, advocates warn that the legislation is too narrowly written; it will only permit granting parole if majority of members vote in favor of it.
On Wednesday, a Baton Rouge jury awarded Max Gruver's parents $6.1 million in settlement of their lawsuit over his death from being hazed at a fraternity party. This award will be included in an agreement the family reached with LSU last December, CNN affiliate KPEL News reports.
The Gruver family had taken legal action against LSU, Phi Delta Theta fraternity and multiple fraternity members in connection with their son's death. They sought both wrongful death damages as well as punitive and compensatory damages for all of their son's injuries.
In addition to general and punitive damages, the jury also awarded Gruver's parents $3.2 million in compensatory damages. This compensation is meant to cover costs incurred as a result of Gruver's injuries such as lost income, medical bills, pain and suffering as well as other losses.
In addition, the jury awarded the family $1.2 million in wrongful death damages. These awards are meant to compensate them for the loss of their child's life as well as cover other losses such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and disruption to normal daily activities.
Claitor's bill, which the Senate Judiciary A Committee advanced Tuesday, allows punitive damages to be awarded in a hazing death case when there was willful and reckless disregard for someone's rights and safety. Unfortunately, this law does not permit such awards to universities or national fraternal organizations that did not establish rules and policies against hazing.
In such cases, punitive damages may be awarded. But how is this decided? Based on evidence presented during trial or do parties calculate their percentage before the verdict is rendered?
DeGravelles told the jury that chemical companies were responsible for injuries caused to plaintiffs due to their reckless and wanton actions, but did not find them liable for punitive damages. Even so, she maintained that if someone earning $20,000 annually had been reckless and wanton in their actions, taking 10 percent of their income would be fair compensation.