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Family’s use of Title IX to seek $25 million judgment against LSU in hazing death gains traction

Originally posted on the Louisiana Record, August 29, 2019

Max Gruver was only 18 when he died of alcohol poisoning in a hazing incident at Louisiana State University in 2017. 

In criminal court, Matthew Naquin, 21, a member of Phi Delta Theta at LSU, was recently found guilty of negligent homicide for his role in the hazing that resulted in Gruver’s death. Naquin is facing five years in prison. 

Gruver’s parents also believe that LSU should also be held accountable for their son’s death, and have filed a $25 million civil lawsuit.  

The argument in their lawsuit relies on Title IX, the federal law that was designed to enforce equal treatment of men and women by institutions that receive federal funds. The lawsuit alleges that LSU failed Gruver and other male students by not overseeing and disciplining fraternities with the same diligence that they oversee and discipline LSU sororities.

Male students and fraternities at LSU were not properly cautioned about hazing and dangerous drinking, while female students and sororities at LSU have received more discipline and oversight, the lawsuit says. 

LSU maintains that it did not discriminate against Max Gruver, male students and fraternities on the basis of sex, and has asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that the lawsuit’s interpretation of Title IX was too broad. 

Judge Shelly dink has declined LSU’s request to dismiss the case, giving trial lawyers across the country reason to pay attention. Her ruling says, “If these facts are proven, a jury may infer that LSU’s policy created the heightened risk to Greek male student of serious injury or death by hazing, thereby inflicting the injury alleged herein.”

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