The parents of Andrew Coffey, the Florida State University student who died from alcohol poisoning after an apparent hazing episode last year, have sued the national Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and nine of its members for their son’s death.
Coffey, who was 20, died on the porch of a Tallahassee home after the Beta Eta chapter’s Big Brother night in November.
Weeks later, police arrested nine men — Luke E. Kluttz and Clayton M. Muehlstein, both 22; Brett A. Birmingham and Anthony Petagine, both 20; and Conner R. Ravelo, Christopher M. Hamlin, Anthony Oppenheimer, John B. "Jack" Ray and Kyle J. Bauer, all 21 — on felony charges of "college hazing-cause injury or death."
Thomas and Sandra Coffey’s 15-count lawsuit accuses the fraternity members, as well as their advisor, their landlords, and the fraternity’s national organization, of negligence. According to the lawsuit, the group had been "hazing and having pledges abuse alcohol for years."
The Coffeys seek compensation for pain and suffering, as well as medical and funeral expenses.
Coffey was excited to join Pi Kappa Phi, the lawsuit said.
"He was, by nature, a ‘team player,’" it said, "and had enjoyed the camaraderie of his swim team and fellow R.O.T.C. members in high school, and believed that a fraternity would give him similar experiences at Florida State University if he could get accepted."
The night of Coffey’s death, he drank an entire 750ml bottle of Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, bought by Ravelo, his assigned big brother, who was also underage and used someone else’s ID.
He was so drunk, the Coffeys allege, that at one point, Ravelo threw him over his back and carried him out to the yard to vomit.
Then, he was put on a futon to sleep. "Everyone drifted away and Andrew was eventually left all alone in a dark room surrounded by empty liquor and beer bottles, empty cups and vomit," the lawsuit claims.
When another pledge found him the next morning, his lips were blue and he had vomit on his face.
And before that night, he and other Beta Eta pledges had been subjected to repeated alcohol abuse and hazing, despite chapter policies banning those, the Coffeys said.
On "Reveal Night," according to the lawsuit, pledges listened, blindfolded, to the sound of paddling, as a warning they would be paddled and demeaned if they didn’t follow directions.
They also underwent "quartering," in which they were forced to press their face against a wall, holding a quarter against it with their nose, "for hours at a time," and had liquor poured down their throats, a ritual called a "haircut."
After previous alcohol abuse, the fraternity’s leadership had imposed a "liquor ban," the lawsuit alleges, but they decided to lift it for Big Brother night.
Contact Langston Taylor at 727-893-8659 or [email protected] Follow @langstonitaylor.