Parents of Fresno State student file wrongful death suit

The parents of a Fresno State student who died in an alcohol-fueled hazing incident have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a national fraternity, its local chapter and six of its members.

Paul and Diane Dhanens are the parents of Philip Dhanens, 18, who died from alcohol poisoning during a party at the Theta Chi fraternity in August 2012. Last week the Fresno County District Attorney filed misdemeanor hazing charges against three members of the fraternity.

Philip Dhanens was a freshman pledge of the fraternity. He died with a blood alcohol level of .38 — nearly five times the legal limit to drive in California — during Theta Chi's "Bid Night" for prospective new members. According to the lawsuit, fraternity officers locked pledges in a room with fatal quantities of alcohol and chanted "Theta Chi" as pledges followed instructions to drink all of the alcohol.

After collapsing, Dhanens was dragged to the fraternity's "Drunk Room" where he was left for hours before being discovered without a heartbeat and covered in his own vomit, according to the lawsuit.

The Dhanens lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. Diane Dhanens also hopes the suit will lead to universities banning freshmen from rushing fraternities as well as ban the use of alcohol in fraternities that admit underage pledges.

San Francisco law firm Kerr & Wagstaffe, LLP, is representing the Dhanens in the wrongful death lawsuit.

“The fraternity never expressed any concern for Philip or their legal and moral obligations to prevent this senseless tragedy,” said Kerr & Wagstaffe Partner Ivo Labar, in a statement. “They must account for their wrongdoing."

The lawsuit states that fraternity members were uncooperative with detectives in the incident investigation on orders from fraternity leaders to "keep everything to themselves," reported Courthouse News Service.