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North Carolina mother sues sorority for wrongful death

A North Carolina woman has filed a lawsuit against the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, claiming that hazing by the group contributed to her daughter's death. The wrongful death claim argues that the car accident that killed the victim could have been prevented if not for the sleep deprivation and other negative effects inflicted on the victim and other new pledges by older sorority members as part of a hazing ritual.

East Carolina University put the chapter on probation immediately after the crash, with the sorority's central office suspending the chapter until at least 2015. These suspensions were enacted partly due to the sorority's reported refusal to cooperate with an ECU investigation.

The fatal accident at the center of the lawsuit occurred when a car carrying the victim and three other sorority pledges veered off a road and collided with a nearby tree. The victim was killed in the crash, while another 20-year-old woman was transported to a hospital for treatment, but pronounced dead the following day. Both the driver and a 19-year-old passenger survived the accident.

The lawsuit alleges that "excessive and overwhelming fatigue, exhaustion and sleep deprivation" brought on by the sorority's hazing caused the driver to "fall asleep behind the wheel" and lose control of the vehicle. In a separate criminal case, the driver pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. The plaintiff originally named only the driver as a defendant, but later amended the lawsuit to include other members of the sorority.

While the plaintiff is seeking monetary damages in compensation for the victim's death, her attorney contended that "no amount of money" will revive the woman. He said that the deceased's family wants to accomplish a more ambitious goal, explaining that they hope to "change the culture" of sororities that results in unnecessary and potentially dangerous hazing.

Source: Bellingham Herald, "Mother of student killed in car wreck sues sorority over hazing," Anne Blythe, Oct. 2, 2012

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