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Phat Nguyen's family files a lawsuit claiming negligence during hazing resulted in Nguyen's death

June 5, 2023
<p>A lit candle was held at the vigil in remembrance of Phat Nguyen on Nov. 29, 2021, at the Minskoff Pavillion.</p>

A lit candle was held at the vigil in remembrance of Phat Nguyen on Nov. 29, 2021, at the Minskoff Pavillion.

The family of Phat Nguyen, a 21-year-old Michigan State business student who died in 2021 during a Pi Alpha Phi pledging event, is suing eighteen individuals in pursuant of the Michigan Wrongful Death Act. The Nguyen family claims that the negligence of the named defendants at the party resulted in his death, according to the complaint, which set forth the family’s allegations in the lawsuit

Phat Nguyen died on November 20, following Pi Alpha Phi’s “blackout” pledging event. The goal of the event “was to get pledges, including Phat, as drunk as possible as fast as possible so they would black out - or ‘die’- and be ‘reborn’ as members of the fraternity,” according to the complaint that led to the family's lawsuit. The complaint was filed in the Ingham County Circuit Court on April 19, 2023.

Nguyen and three other members of the fraternity’s pledging class, who were found unconscious at the event, were be transported to Sparrow Hospital that night.

Nguyen' autopsy report identified alcohol intoxication as the lead cause of his death. He was pronounced dead at the scene after ELPD responded to a 911 call made by a witness

MSU and the Phi Alpha Pi National Board placed the MSU chapter under interim suspension soon after the incident. Weeks later, the fraternity was disbanded for a minimum of 10 years. 

According to the complaint, the Nguyen family is not claiming that the Defendants “acted intentionally with the intent to kill or injure Phat,” but that the lawsuit is “based on each of their negligence and recklessness in acting, or failing to act, which constituted a legal, direct, proximate and substantial cause of Phat's injuries and death."

The Michigan Wrongful Death Act is defined as death caused by "wrongful act, neglect, or fault of another” that, if the person would have lived, the “entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages." 

Before this new lawsuit, three members of Pi Alpha Phi:  Ethan Tin Cao, Andrew Hoang Nguyen and Hoang John Huu Pham,  were charged with three misdeamenor counts of hazing resulting in physical injury and one felony account of hazing resulting in death following the ‘blackout’ event.  On September 15, 2022, Pham’s charges were dismissed by the Ingham County’s prosecutors office. Nguyen and Cao both waived their rights to preliminary examination

The Nguyen family is suing the defendants for “reasonable funeral and burial expenses,” “the pain and suffering, while conscious, Phat endured while he was being hazed and subjected to related misconduct,” “the pain and suffering, while conscious, Phat endured during the period intervening between when he was forced, compelled, coerced and/or pressured to drink fatal amounts during the blackout event and his death” and “the loss of financial support Phat would have provided for his family during his lifetime if he would have lived."

Other reasons cited “the loss of society, companionship, and other intangible benefits family members enjoyed through their relationship with Phat,” “Phat's lost future earnings as a result of his death,” “pre- and post-judgment interest” and “all other relief the Court or jury deems fair and equitable under the circumstances,” according to the complaint

According to a statement from the Nguyen family obtained by Fierberg National Law Group, they are “hopeful that (the) lawsuit and the criminal process will deliver some measure of justice and accountability for his loss.”

“Phat was a devoted and beloved son, brother, and grandson.  He was an outstanding student and a wonderful young man who treated everyone with respect and kindness.  His senseless death has devastated our family,” the statement said. “Our family remains in mourning.  And we continue to struggle with the still unimaginable reality of a world without .” 

Any student that is in need of counseling or support services may reach out to MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services. Services are available 24/7/365.

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