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Judge Clears Way For Deng Family to Sue Over Son’s Hazing Death

Almost a year and a half after a Chinese-American student was fatally injured during an alleged fraternity hazing in Pennsylvania, a New York Court of Claims judge has granted the victim’s parents permission to sue their son’s college.

Chun Hsien (Michael) Deng, 19, died in December 2013 while on a trip to the Poconos in Pennsylvania, where students were allegedly pledging for Pi Delta Psi’s chapter at Baruch College, a city university in Manhattan. During the alleged hazing, Deng fell unconscious, and participants allegedly delayed bringing the freshman to a hospital for at least an hour.

“While the determination of the duty owed to Michael in view of Baruch College's involvement and level of information (much of which claimant has so far been unable to obtain) is not at this point discernible, I conclude that Ms. Liu has demonstrated the appearance of merit,” Judge Alan C. Marin wrote in a decision last month, allowing Deng’s mother, Xiu Fen Liu, to sue Baruch College.

Originally, Deng’s parents planned to wait for prosecutors to file charges before bringing a civil suit. But more than a year after Deng’s death was ruled a homicide in February of 2014, no one has been charged. The Monroe County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Marin’s decision notes that Baruch College, represented by the New York State Attorney General’s Office, opposed Liu’s motion, arguing that “colleges do not have a duty to protect its students from dangerous activities.” It also said the school submitted an affidavit saying that it “had no knowledge of the Pennsylvania trip,” that “the president and treasurer of the Pi Delta Psi attended an anti-hazing workshop less than three months before the trip,” and that “11 members of the fraternity signed an anti-hazing agreement.”

Pi Delta Psi, which describes itself as an "Asian-American cultural fraternity," was subsequently banned from the college. In an email, Baruch College spokeswoman Christina Latouf wrote that "there is no new statement from Baruch" regarding Deng's death.

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