DeKALB – The case of a Northern Illinois University fraternity pledge who died from excessive drinking in 2012 is coming to a close with a historic settlement.
Gary and Ruth Bogenberger, the parents of former NIU student David Bogenberger, have reached a $14 million settlement with 44 people who were at the party and the Pi Kappa Alpha chapter at NIU after the 19-year-old pledge died during a fraternity event where alcohol was involved. The university shut down the chapter after the incident took place 6 years ago.
Gary Bogenberger said the victory is a “hollow” one. He said nothing can bring his and Ruth’s son back, but he hopes the size of the settlement emphasizes what can happen when fraternity members abuse their perceived authority during senseless initiations.
“There have been nearly 40 kids killed in hazings since my son – it’s absolutely reprehensible that this continues,” Gary Bogenberger said. “That’s the message we really, really want to get out there. Something horrible happened, and there are dire consequences of just ignoring these pledges just to satisfy their own egos during these initiations.”
Bogenberger, one of three triplets from Palatine, and 18 other pledges attended an unsanctioned party in November 2012 at the house for NIU’s Eta Nu chapter of the national Pi Kappa Alpha, or “Pikes,” fraternity. There, fraternity members and other guests ordered pledges to drink vodka out of 4-ounce cups, authorities have said.
The pledges drank alcohol for about 2 hours while playing a game in which they were assigned “moms” and “dads” whose identities they had to guess.
Bogenberger was found dead in the fraternity house the morning after the event. Toxicology results showed he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.351 percent at the time of his death. He drank about 27 ounces of vodka – more than a pint and a half – in 75 minutes.
Peter Coladarci, lawyer for the Bogenberger family, said NIU as an entity is not involved in the $14 million settlement. He said NIU’s claim is still technically pending, but it seems likely that case will be dismissed. The $14 million settlement will be divided among the 45 entities based on their own lawyers and insurance providers.
“It’s a lot of money, and they [the entities] took it seriously,” Coladarci said.
The 44 individuals who were at the party include 22 sorority members and 22 fraternity members. The settlement has been paid in full to the Bogenberger family as of Nov. 20.
Coladarci said this is the largest settlement in the country that has come from an alcohol-related hazing by fraternities. He said he’s hopeful that this sends a message not only to fraternity and sorority members to think twice about participating in hazing, but to national fraternal organizations that hazing is going to be a big problem for them going forward.
“Their day of reckoning is coming,” Coladarci said.