KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A former University of Missouri student is suing a fraternity and its parent organization over an alleged hazing incident he says left him with near-fatal alcohol poisoning while the frat already was on probation for alcohol infractions.
Brandon Zingale’s lawsuit filed Thursday in Boone County – home of the Columbia campus he attended – alleges he and other pledges of the Kappa Alpha Order’s Alpha Kappa chapter were “coerced” to participate in a September 2016 vodka-chugging contest.
After that forced binge incapacitated Zingale, then an 18-year-old freshman, he was left alone in a bedroom overnight and was found the next morning drenched in urine, “unconscious, barely breathing and unable to be awakened,” the lawsuit alleges.
When rushed by ambulance to a hospital 10 hours after the drinking stunt, Zingale still had a blood-alcohol level of .41 – five times more than the state’s legal threshold for intoxication and within the range considered lethal, according to the lawsuit.
Fraternity members “were instructed and agreed to keep the truth about what happened to Brandon from university officials, the police and Brandon’s family,” the lawsuit alleges while also claiming that Zingale was drugged against his will at least once.
That alleged hazing came roughly two weeks after the fraternity already had been placed on semester-long probation for illegally providing alcohol to minors. The university suspended the fraternity the next month, then weeks later barred it from officially being recognized on campus for five years, citing repeated conduct violations that included Zingale’s case. The ban prohibits the fraternity from campus activities and access to some university amenities, including auditoriums and meeting rooms.
Zingale withdrew from the university shortly after the incident and has enlisted in the military, according to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and also names three members of the fraternity, including its president at the time.
“This brave young man hopes his action will help deter fraternities from reckless alcohol hazing and universities from ignoring or tolerating this recklessness,” Ken Chackes, Zingale’s attorney in St. Louis, said in a statement. “He hopes to hold this fraternity responsible for its irresponsible behavior that almost cost him his life.”
Brent Buswell, a spokesman for the Virginia-based Kappa Alpha Order, declined to publicly discuss the lawsuit, telling The Associated Press by email that “the fraternity and legal counsel will review the allegations and will respond in court.”