The family of Ryan Abele, a Sigma Nu pledge who died in October 2016, have filed a lawsuit against the Delta Xi Chapter of Sigma Nu, the Sigma Nu Housing Authority and members of the fraternity.
Abele, 18, was pledging at the Sigma Nu fraternity when he fell on a staircase at the fraternity house on Ralston Street in Reno. According to a University of Nevada investigation, the fall happened after a night of drinking, marijuana, and strippers for the ‘Big Brother Reveal’, a planned fraternity event.
Abele’s parents, who filed the lawsuit in the Second Judicial District Court of Nevada, are seeking medical and incidental expenses and general damages on claims of negligence, violating state and university hazing and alcohol laws and for dangerous and defective conditions of the fraternity house.
The lawsuit, filed on June 2, alleges that prior to the incident that led to Abele’s death, new fraternity members were given documentation and vowed to not participate in hazing, “neither misuse nor support the misuse of alcohol” and have a “’dry candidate program.”
The lawsuit named several members of the fraternity in the lawsuit because they allegedly “knew the statements were false” and were “integral parts of the pledge process they designed and implemented.”
Those members, who held leadership positions at the Sigma Nu house, include Karsten Chung, Joel Kaufmann, Joseph Dayton, Kyle Sharp and Eric Medina. Kyle Bryce, the chapter advisor for Sigma Nu, was also named in the lawsuit.
When Abele was admitted to the hospital, he had a blood alcohol level of .3 percent – nearly four times the legal limit.
Abele suffered traumatic brain injuries and died 12 days after the fall. The University of Nevada-Reno subsequently decided to suspend the Sigma Nu chapter for 15 years for violating the student code of conduct.
Ryan’s father Jack Abele reached out to COED to comment:
“This idiocy needs to stop. Our son didn’t die in an earthquake, he wasn’t struck by lightning. This was NOT an ‘Act of God’. Ryan’s death was caused by the ‘Action of Idiots’.”