The family of a 19-year-old Virginia college student who died during a hazing incident in 2021 is suing the Delta Chi fraternity and several others for $28 million, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
Adam Oakes, a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, had been offered a bid to join the Delta Chi fraternity and had gone to a party to begin the initiation process on February 26.
Oakes died during a “Big Brother ritual” where he was coerced to drink an entire bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, leaving him “dangerously intoxicated,” according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed in Richmond Circuit Court.
Other fraternity members took Oakes and the other pledges outside to throw up on the lawn, but Oakes did not throw up, according to the lawsuit. They then took him “back into the fraternity house and abandoned him on the floor,” the lawsuit states.
The next morning, Oakes was pronounced dead at the scene, with a blood-alcohol content level of .419%, according to the suit.
In the wrongful death lawsuit, obtained by CNN affiliate WTVR, 13 VCU Delta Chi chapter members are listed as those being involved in the hazing procedure.
Eleven of them were charged in connection with the death of Oakes by the Richmond Police, CNN previously reported. All 11 were charged with unlawful hazing of a student and six were additionally charged with purchasing and providing alcohol to a minor in September 2021, according to Richmond Police.
Of those 11, four have pleaded guilty, three have not entered a plea, two had their cases dropped, one pleaded no contest and one entered a different plea, according to court records.
The Richmond Commonwealth Attorney’s Office told CNN that since several of the defendants charged in the case have pending court dates, the “rules of ethics and professional responsibility prevent” them from commenting on the case.
According to the suit, the VCU Chapter of Delta Chi operates as an unincorporated association, but the incorporated arm has “the power to revoke the charter of the chapter, order that its activities cease and, in effect, deem the existence of the unincorporated association as being terminated.”
“Unknown to Adam and his family, and known and never disclosed by Delta Chi or the VCU Chapter to Adam, is that the VCU Chapter has a long history of engaging in high-risk misconduct at VCU that resulted in VCU revoking its recognition in August 2018, and prohibiting its presence or activity at VCU, for a period of four years ‘due to serious health and safety concerns’ involving the VCU Chapter and its activities,” the lawsuit states.
Despite this, the chapter’s legal counsel worked to reinstate the organization on campus, the lawsuit added.
In statement shared with CNN Wednesday, Delta Chi’s International Headquarters for the Fraternity said, “Adam’s death and other tragedies in recent years make clear that fraternity members, organizations, and society continue to have more work to do.”
“Hazing, the misuse of alcohol, and putting the health and safety of any person at risk has no place in Delta Chi,” the statement said. “The Fraternity continues to fund hazing prevention research, support meaningful anti-hazing legislation and provide member safety and hazing prevention education to Delta Chi chapters.”
CNN has reached out to VCU and the Oakes’ family attorney for comment.
CNN’s Braden Walker and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.