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Family of MSU student files wrongful death lawsuit against former fraternity members

Tingey Injury Law Firm

The family of a Michigan State University student who died during a fraternity pledge event in 2021 is now suing former members of that fraternity.

Phat Nguyen was a junior at MSU when he attended an event organized by the university’s chapter of the Pi Alpha Phi fraternity. The event was part of the organization’s initiation for new pledges.

That evening Nguyen drank excessive amounts of alcohol and later died in the basement of the fraternity’s house.

His family has now filed a civil lawsuit in the Ingham County Circuit Court against several former members of the fraternity and event attendees. The lawsuit names 19 defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the purpose of the so-called "blackout event" that night was to get pledges like Nguyen as drunk as possible as fast as possible, so that they would black out or "die" and be "reborn" as members of the fraternity.

In the lawsuit, the family is seeking to hold the defendants accountable for not getting their son emergency care after he began exhibiting signs of acute alcohol poisoning.

"Defendants had statutory and common law duties not to haze Phat, including not to furnish him with, and/or direct, force, compel, coerce, or pressure him to consume, alcohol in connection with that hazing, which was a substantial factor in causing his conscious pain and suffering, injuries, and death," states the lawsuit.

The lawsuit names 19 defendants including the fraternity's pledge master, Ethan Cao, and the fraternity's pledge dad, Andrew Nguyen. Andrew Nguyen and Phat Nguyen are not related.

The lawsuit claims the Cao and Andrew Nguyen were responsible for supervising and managing the fraternity's pledge program and activities in the fall of 2021.

Andrew Nguyen's attorney, Bryan Morley from Butzel Law, says his client is troubled by the tragedy as everyone else is.

"I don't know that fault can be blamed or placed on him either civilly or criminally," Morley said.

In a statement, Nguyen’s family said they are hoping to receive justice in the legal proceedings.

"Our family remains in mourning. And we continue to struggle with the still unimaginable reality of a world without Phat," they said.

Since the incident, the Pi Alpha Phi fraternity's chapter at MSU has been disbanded.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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