Family of Fraternity Pledge Files Hazing Injury Lawsuit

The family of Danial Santulli, 19, have filed a hazing lawsuit against a University of Missouri fraternity for requiring their son to drink a whole bottle of alcohol as part of the initiation process to join the frat. Tragically, Mr. Santulli was found in cardiac arrest inside a vehicle at University Hospital on October 20, 2021. His blood alcohol content was 0.486%, more than six times the legal limit for driving a vehicle. The incident resulted in serious injuries. At the time of this article, Mr. Santulli remains unresponsive, can not communicate,  and is totally unaware of his surroundings. In essence, he suffered severe injury to his brain.

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Mr Santilli, was a pledge to the Fiji  fraternity. As part of that pledge, he was required to consume a bottle of vodka during the evening of October 19, 2021. By midnight, he was severely intoxicated and had passed out on the couch. He ultimately stopped breathing. Nobody noticed until later in the night and 911 was never notified. Two fraternity members drove him to the University Hospital, where he had gone into cardiac arrest.

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The lawsuit which was filed in Boone County Circuit Court alleges damages and negligence against the fiji fraternity and specific fraternity members. The complaint does not include the University nor any other University personnel. Hazing, which is prohibited by the International Fraternity Organization, is a common practice at almost all the fraternities in the country but results in far too many injuries and even deaths. The chapter at the University of  Missouri has been suspended by the International organization confirming the prohibition against hazing and serving alcohol to underage minors.

Alternatively,  Mr. Santilli could have chosen not to drink the bottle of alcohol. He carried it around with him all evening. He was not physically forced to drink. He was however under heavy  “peer pressure” to drink to excess as he was a pledge to the Fiji fraternity. To a 19 year old, peer pressure can be extremely powerful and override their better judgment. He would have had to not drink and leave the fraternity and be subjected to ridicule. He instead chose, as many too often do, to stay, comply with the hazing, and drink the whole bottle of vodka. That conduct may result in him  “assuming the risk” of his severe injuries.

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Assumption of the risk is a legal concept in personal injury lawsuits that may result in a failure to recover compensation for the injured party if they willingly took on the risk of the activity they engaged in when injured. This is typically based on state law in the State where the injury occurred.

About the Authors: Sawan & Sawan is a multi-generational, family owned law firm practicing law in the areas of car accidents, truck accidents, insurance claims, personal injury, litigation and more. Our firm practices law in Ohio (Toledo, Columbus), Georgia, Michigan and Florida

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