Judge to hear dismissal motion filed by B-CU in hazing case

Filed under DAYTONA BEACH

BY JAMES HARPER
DAYTONA TIMES

Bethune-Cookman University has been granted a July 1 hearing after the school’s attorneys filed a motion for dismissal in a case in which the mother alleges that her son died as a result of hazing while pledging a fraternity at B-CU.

Marcus Thomas

Marcus Thomas

On behalf of her son, Marcus Thomas, Michelle Thomas also is suing Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America, Inc.; B-CU employee Lamar D. Bryant; and Marcus Allen, a “big brother’’ to the pledges and B-CU student. Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America is a fraternity for music students.

Judge Terence Perkins will hear the dismissal motion at 3 p.m. July 1 at the Daytona Beach Courthouse Annex, 125 East Orange Ave.

Marcus Thomas died in a car accident on Feb. 10, 2012, after returning from a pledging activity.

Suit alleges abuse
The mom’s complaint alleges that hazing activities were conducted both on and off campus.

‘Some of the pledging activities involved pledges dressing in all black where they would be physically assaulted and battered. During the pledging process, pledges would be forced to be on a “Pledge diet,” where they were not allowed to eat. Also pledges were required to stay up all night and into the early morning hours, memorizing and reciting fraternity history and facts, clean fraternity members houses and run errands for the members.

Pledges would be quizzed on the fraternity’s history and if the fraternity was not satisfied with the answers the pledges would be assaulted,” Thomas stated in her lawsuit.

She also stated that pledges were forced to attend music sessions that lasted over eight hours and did not begin until 8 p.m.

Pledges would return to their dorms exhausted every morning over a three-week period.

Sophomore when died
According to documents obtained by the Daytona Times, Marcus Thomas was a 19-year-old sophomore when he died. He attended B-CU on a marching band scholarship. He planned to earn a master’s degree in music, and his goal was to someday become a music director.

As a pledge, he was required to participate in the fraternity’s pledge activities and follow orders given by the fraternity members.

Thomas’ lawsuit, which was filed last year, states that as a B-CU student and pledge of a fraternity he was protected by Florida Statue 1006.63 and protected by the B-CU Greek Life Policy on Hazing and its Statement on Hazing and Student Code.

“Both recognize the inherent dangers of hazing, defined as any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student as part of an organization’s initiation or affiliation process and attempt to protect students from those dangers,’’ the suit states.

Suit cites dangers
The attorneys, on behalf of Thomas’ mother allege that the fraternity by and through the acts of its members, agents or apparent agents, organized and required participation by it pledges in activities involving dangerous and illegal hazing.

In addition, the suit states that the fraternity did not reasonably educate, monitor or supervise fraternity or its members, concerning the known risks and dangers of hazing pledges. They believe Phi Mu was aware that hazing was prevalent at Pi Gamma Chapter (B-CU chapter) and did nothing to stop it.

Bryant, a B-CU employee, is being sued because he was the assistant dean of students and director of Student Involvement and Coordinator of Greek Life at the university.

According to the lawsuit, Bryant was responsible for monitoring, oversight, advising, discipline and risk management for the fraternities and sororities on campus. He was responsible for communicating with the fraternity regarding all issues arising out of the fraternity’s affiliation with B-CU.

What happened
According to reports, on Feb. 9, 2012, Marcus Thomas attended a free concert at B-CU.

Following the concert, Thomas got together with four other pledges at 10 p.m., including Carl Beasley, to memorize fraternity history and travel to Marcus Allen’s apartment to be quizzed. All five of the pledges stayed up until 4 a.m. memorizing fraternity history. About 4:30 a.m., the pledges were contacted by Marcus Allen and told to travel to his apartment.

The pledges were forced to remain at Allen’s apartment until 8 a.m. where they cleaned Allen’s apartment, memorized history and were tested on fraternity matters, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit states that in total disregard for the safety of Marcus Thomas and Carl Beasley, and with knowledge that they had not slept for days, the defendants, including Allen had the pledges leave and drive home. Beasley was the driver of the vehicle.

The lawsuit adds that all three passengers immediately fell asleep on the short car ride back to the pledges’ apartment. Within minutes after leaving Allen’s apartment, Beasley also fell asleep at the wheel, jumped a curb and slammed the car into a Florida Power and Light poll.

The front passenger side where Marcus Thomas was seated was crushed. He was pronounced dead on the scene. An autopsy report shows he suffered multiple blunt traumatic injuries to his head and torso.

$15,000 damages sought
B-CU, Phi Mu and Bryant are being charged with negligence. The fraternity and Marcus Allen also are being sued for breach of fiduciary duty. In addition, the fraternity is being accused of default on obligations.

The mother is seeking damages in excess of  $15,000.

The lawsuit states that Thomas, as surviving mother, has suffered lost support and services from the date of death, with interest and continuing in the future, mental pain and suffering. The estate of Marcus Thomas sustained economic losses in the form of funeral and medical bills and expenses as well as loss of net accumulations.

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