Wrongful Death Suit Involving Lenoir-Rhyne University

Posted on Feb 04, 2009
According to the Charlotte Observer, the family of a Lenoir-Rhyne University sophomore who died under mysterious circumstances during a fraternity initiation event filed a wrongful death suit regarding their son. The parents have put forth that the death was a direct result of hazing, while others contend that it was simply an unusual and unfortunate accident.

Catawba County District Attorney Jay Gaither disagreed with the assertion through a written statement in which he writes that there was no basis for criminal charges, though the death was unfortunate.

The event in question took place off campus in a field in Hickory, NC, where 17 college students participated in a game relating to a fraternity initiation. While some said it was a team-building activity, others said that there were components of hazing involved. One student reported that the cold weather had frozen the ground, making it quite hard.

At some point, 19-year-old Harrison Kowiak fell and hit is head. He got up, but was taken to the hospital later that night by friends who realized he was badly hurt. He died in the hospital the next day.

Kowiak's parents said the activity was part of "Hell Week" and that even if the college did nothing to support the activities, they certainly ignored them. The Theta Chi pledges allegedly were subjected to physical activity that involved frat members shoving them to the ground.

The university's statement read in part, "In light of recent statements by the attorney for Harrison Kowiak's family, we do not believe it is appropriate to comment on the details of this tragic event or the steps Lenoir-Rhyne University has taken in response."

A Theta Chi representative explained that the college student was involved in a team-building activity in which the American flag is kept off of the ground. Furthermore, the activity is optional.