Family files lawsuit against Ohio University fraternity over student's hazing death
(ATHENS, Ohio) — The parents of an Ohio University student who died after pledging the Sigma Pi Fraternity sued the organization on Thursday, accusing the fraternity of “extensive” mental and physical hazing.
The family of Collin Wiant filed a wrongful death suit against the Sigma Pi Fraternity and 10 unnamed individuals in connection with the 18-year-old’s November death, according to the lawsuit.
Wiant, an Ohio University freshman, died of asphyxiation from nitrous oxide ingestion on Nov. 12, 2018, less than two months after he was selected as a pledge, according to the suit.
The teen died inside a Sigma Pi Epsilon annex house in Athens, Ohio, where he was allegedly beaten with a belt, pelted with eggs, deprived of sleep and forced to take drugs and drink a gallon of alcohol in an hour, the lawsuit alleged.
The suit, which names the local Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Pi Fraternity and the fraternity’s Tennessee-based national office, is seeking at least $25,000 in damages in connection to the teen’s death.
“During the pledging process, Collin Wiant was subjected to physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, sleep deprivation, forced drug and alcohol use, and other forms of hazing intended to humiliate and demean him,” the suit stated. “Some of the tasks required of Collin included doing laundry for fraternity members, cleaning the J Bar after hours, and being forced to be available at all hours of the day on-demand regardless of academic obligations.”
The suit also accused the fraternity of providing and/or forcing pledges, including Wiant, to take cocaine, marijuana, Adderall and Xanax, along with moonshine and other types of alcohol.
“The combination of drugs and alcohol caused Collin to black out numerous times,” the suit said.
The Sigma Pi Fraternity’s national office said they had not been served with any lawsuit and if they are, they will “review and determine the appropriate response.”
“We are aware of the tragic passing of Collin Wiant this past November and we continue to extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” the statement read. “To my knowledge, Sigma Pi International has not been served with a lawsuit involving Mr. Wiant, so we are not able to comment. If we are served with a lawsuit, our attorneys will review and determine the appropriate response.”
The lawsuit alleges that within hours of Collin Wiant’s death, the Epsilon Chapter of the Sigma Pi Fraternity called an emergency meeting of its members to initiate the current pledge class as full members of the fraternity rather than being concerned for Collin and his family.
“The action was designed to close ranks within all fraternity members to make sure they all told the same story concerning the events of earlier that morning,” the lawsuit alleged.
Ohio University issued a cease and desist letter to the Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Pi in the wake of the teen’s death. The university is not a defendant in the lawsuit
“This is a very sad situation, and our hearts go out to Collin’s family and friends who have been impacted by this tragic loss,” according to a statement from Ohio University. “The Epsilon chapter of the Sigma Pi fraternity remains on a cease and desist order from the University, pending investigation.”
Sigma Pi Fraternity’s national office said it was “in full support of the cease-and-desist order” at the time.
“Sigma Pi will work closely with the OU administration and local authorities during their review of this matter, and the Fraternity has advised all members to cooperate fully,” the organization said in a statement.
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