A 2012 death of a Northern Illinois University student during a fraternity function could change a century’s worth of legal precedence when it comes to social host liability and alcohol. That’s if the state Supreme Court sides with the family of the deceased after last week’s hearing.
David Bogenberger died in 2012 during a fraternity function where party-goers allegedly hazed pledges to drink. Criminal proceedings for this case already happened; 22 fraternity members were given sentences including community service and fines.
Now, it’s a civil matter. It’s up to the Illinois Supreme Court to determine if Bogenberger’s family can sue former fraternity members of NIU’s Pi Kappa Alpha chapter, the fraternity’s parent organizations, or other sorority members at the party.
Mike Borders is the defense attorney for the former NIU fraternity chapter president. He says a main question in this case is whether there’s an exception to the century-old general rule of no social host liability for alcohol-related injuries, and if that exception can happen with hazing.
“The defendants say no; the plaintiffs say yes,” Borders said.
Plaintiff attorney Mike Rathsack says he referenced case studies on social behavior and hazing throughout the case.
“When you put people in this situation, where they want to join the fraternity, it’s amazing the things that members of the fraternity can persuade the pledges to do,” Rathsack said. “There’s this drive to join in this group action.”
The state Supreme Court’s eventual decision will determine whether the case ends after this hearing by siding with the defendants, or if the Bogenbergers can proceed with any additional legal action.