Frat Pledge Forced to Drink Vodka Has Brain Injury, Parents Allege in Suit

The parents of a college student allege their son suffers from a brain injury after being forced to drink a significant amount of vodka at a University of Missouri Phi Gamma Delta fraternity party, according to a recent lawsuit.

Daniel Santulli, 19, has been "unresponsive, unaware of his surroundings, unable to communicate and (with) a significant injury to his brain" after an alleged hazing incident in October, the lawsuit was quoted in an Associated Press report.

On the night of October 19, Santulli was at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, commonly known as "Fiji," for a "pledge father reveal" party as a member of the pledge class, the Columbia Missourian reported. Santulli was allegedly forced to drink a bottle of Tito's vodka throughout the night given to him by his "pledge father," who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, some pledges had the bottles taped to their hands, and marijuana and cocaine were also "available," the Missourian added.

The family's attorney, David W. Bianchi, said by around midnight, Santulli was passed out on the couch and severely intoxicated, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported. By the time someone tried to help Santulli, the attorney said he had stopped breathing.

"No one called 911," Bianchi said in a press release reported by the Daily Tribune. Instead, two fraternity members drove Santulli to the university's hospital.

Once Santulli arrived at the hospital, his lips were blue and he was in cardiac arrest. Hospital staff performed CPR, resuscitated him and proceeded to place him on a ventilator, according to the Missourian. His blood alcohol content was 0.486, more than six times the legal limit.

Bianchi said Santulli is still unresponsive and cannot communicate due to permanent brain damage, the Columbia Daily Tribune added. The lawsuit filed by Santulli's parents is seeking damages and alleges negligence by the Phi Gamma Delta organization and specific members of the University of Missouri chapter.

The fraternity's national executive director, Rob Caudill, wrote in a statement that the group has received the civil complaint and is reviewing it.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Danny and the Santulli family during this difficult time," Caudill wrote in the statement emailed to Newsweek.

The incident wasn't the first time Santulli was in the hospital during the pledge process. The Missourian reported Santulli was ordered to climb into a trashcan with glass shards in an incident that led to him cutting his foot and needing stitches and crutches.

According to the lawsuit, Santulli broke down and cried to his sister two days before the party.

"He said he was exhausted, he could not take it anymore," the Missourian quoted the lawsuit. His parents told him to leave the fraternity, but Santulli said he didn't want to be humiliated.

"These are not isolated, one-off events," Bianchi said, according to the Missourian. "These are part of a pattern of unsafe and dangerous behavior that represents the traditions of the fraternity."

The national fraternity and the university suspended the Phi Gamma Delta chapter after Santulli was hospitalized, the AP added.

Lawsuit Against Missouri Fraternity Hazing
The University of Missouri-Columbia has suspended all fraternity activities after an alcohol-filled party ended with a freshman being taken to a hospital. In this November 2, 2013, file photo, the Mizzou logo is seen on a scoreboard over Memorial Stadium at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri. Jeff Roberson/AP Photo