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Parents of Penn State student Timothy Piazza who died during pledge sue 28 frat members

The lawsuit alleges the other students caused Timothy "to consume life-threatening amounts of alcohol," which led to his injury and death.
Image: Timothy Piazza, Evelyn Piazza, James Piazza
Timothy Piazza, center, with his parents Evelyn Piazza and James Piazza during Hunterdon Central Regional High School football's "Senior Night" at the high school's stadium in Flemington, N.J.Patrick Carns / AP file

The parents of a Penn State University student who died while pledging a fraternity in 2017 filed a lawsuit Thursday against 28 members of the organization.

Jim and Evelyn Piazza are suing the Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers who organized and participated in the party where their son, Timothy Piazza, fatally fell down the stairs at an initiation event for new pledges at the house, according to the family's lawyer.

St. Moritz Security Services, a company hired to help enforce alcohol regulations, was also named in the suit.

Jim Piazza and Evelyn Piazza hold one another as they listen to District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller speak during a press conference regarding new evidence in the investigation into the death of their son, Beta Theta Pi fraternity pledge Tim Piazza, on Nov. 13, 2017, at the Centre County Courthouse Annex in Bellefonte, Pa.Phoebe Sheehan / Centre Daily Times via AP

The lawsuit alleges the fraternity brothers caused Timothy "to consume life-threatening amounts of alcohol, and caused him to become intoxicated, fall, and suffer grievous injuries and death. For more than 11 hours after his fall, Timothy Piazza endured horrible pain and suffering, which was documented by closed-circuit cameras."

Multiple members of the fraternity supplied and encouraged Timothy to drink copious amounts of vodka, beer, and wine as a part of the chapter's Bid Acceptance Night, according to the suit. And when Timothy fell down the stairs at the party and began vomiting, the members allegedly failed to call for medical assistance until more than 11 hours later.

Text messages exchanged between fraternity members in the filing allegedly show the young men attempting to erase evidence of bringing alcohol to the party and what was written in their group conversations.

"Erasing the cameras could be the look as long as no one found out," one message in the suit read.

Piazza's death resulted in criminal charges against 28 members of Beta Theta Pi, in many cases the same young men who were sued on Thursday.

Nearly all of those criminal charges have been resolved. Some have pleaded guilty to mostly alcohol- or hazing-related charges and others have entered a diversion program designed for first-time, nonviolent offenders.

The chapter's former recruitment chair, Ryan Burke, is named as one of the defendants in the Piazza's suit.

Burke was the first to plead guilty to charges in connection with Piazza's death and said at his sentencing that, "I am very sorry for the Piazzas' loss. I am here to today to accept responsibility for my actions. I hope one day to be able to be forgiven."

The Piazza family settled a lawsuit with Beta Theta Pi's national organization in September 2018 for an undisclosed amount.

Penn State announced Friday that the school had "resolved their remaining outstanding issues" with the Piazza family and agreed to reforms to the school's Greek-life chapters.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law in October of 2018, which enacts stricter criminal penalties and permit courts to order confiscation of frat houses where hazing has occurred.