Thursday, July 17, 2008

Family Settles $4.2 Million Hazing Death Suit

Family Reaches settlement in pledge’s death
Associated Press

Proceeds from a $4.2 million settlement of a lawsuit against a fraternity will be used to educate fraternity and sorority members about the dangers of binge drinking.

The family of a University of Texas student -- Jack Phoummarath (FOO'-mah-rahth) -- who died of alcohol poisoning after a fraternity binge-drinking party announced the settlement yesterday.

The 18-year-old's body was found in 2005 in a garage apartment near a fraternity house. His family sued the Lambda Phi Epsilon national and Austin chapters and some individual members.

The Houston Chronicle reported that his sister Marion said the family wanted to develop the video to prevent other deaths.

Together with UT officials, the family is also establishing an $8,000 to $10,000 annual scholarship in Phoummarath's memory. Scholarship recipients will be required to attend a binge-drinking awareness program.

Three officers of the fraternity received probation after a criminal investigation into Phoummarath's death.

On the Web:
18-minute Jack Phoummarath Memorial Video: http://www.inmemoryofjack.com/.

from another source

Family of Victim in University Alcohol Hazing Incident Tries to Raise Awareness
Fox 26 News (Houston)

The family of a University of Texas Freshman who died during a fraternity hazing binge drinking party is turning its tragedy into a campaign to save lives. Eighteen-year-old Jack Phoummarath died of acute alcohol poisoning during a Lambda Phi Epsilon initiation in December of 2005. His family is using proceeds from its $4.2 Million dollar lawsuit settlement for a widespread educational effort to warn young people about the dangers of hazing and binge drinking.Part of the family's campaign includes a powerful, graphic video entitled "Enough is Enough."

The video, available at www.inmemoryofjack.com, includes actual footage and photos of Jack's own hazing process, which led to his death. Lambda Phi Epsilon President Benny Chan, Pledge Captain Andrew Nguyen, and Hell Master Kamal Pulukuri each pleaded no contest to a charge of hazing, in connection with Jack's death, and received deferred adjudication probation. As part of their plea agreements, all three provided interviews for the video, which is now being circulated to colleges and universities across the country.

"He (Phoummarath) was encouraged to drink, kind of in a celebratory manner. We screwed up, and we didn't pay attention," Pledge captain Andrew Nguyen said.Phoummarath's sister, Marian Phoummarath, said the video is meant to open students' eyes to what they could possibly be getting themselves into.
"This is not an anti-Greek video, but these are some of the dangers that can be involved if you become involved in organizations like this," she said.

She says the family hopes it will also help parents to begin a dialogue with their kids on the dangers of binge drinking.The Phoummaraths are also working with U-T to set up a full scholarship in Jack's name, each year, for a student who will prepares and executes a binge drinking awareness program.

"We hope that through this case and these educational opportunities, the dangerous activities that many fraternities sponsor will be curtailed", Family Attorney Randy Sorrels said. "When alcohol and hazing become a priority in a fraternity or sorority, things need to change."

In addition, an award-winning documentary, The Pledge, chronicling the life and tragic death of Jack Phoummarath, has been produced. The Twin Lion Communications film received a Platinum Award at the 2008 Houston International Film Festival.

Meanwhile, House Bill 2639 takes effect on September 1st, requiring fraternities, sororities, and social organizations at every Texas college and university to go through training on the dangers of hazing and binge drinking.