COLUMBUS, Ohio — The family of a student who died from alcohol poisoning while pledging to a fraternity has reached a $2.9 million settlement with Bowling Green State University.
The attorney for Stone Foltz’s family called the settlement “the largest payout by a public university in a hazing case in Ohio history.”
As part of the settlement, the family and the university both said they will work to address and eliminate hazing on college campuses.
Both sides said in a joint statement issued Monday that they will be forever impacted by his death:
“The Foltz family and Bowling Green State University are forever impacted by the tragic death of Stone Foltz. This resolution keeps the Foltz family and BGSU community from reliving the tragedy for years to come in the courtroom and allows us to focus on furthering our shared mission of eradicating hazing in Ohio and across the nation. Leading these efforts in our communities is the real work that honors Stone.”
Stone Foltz, who graduated from Buckeye Valley High School in 2019, died of alcohol poisoning after a fraternity initiation event in which he was hazed into drinking an entire bottle of whiskey in March 2021. He was found unconscious by a roommate after members of the Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity dropped him off at his apartment. Foltz died three days later.
After the hazing death, Bowling Green expelled Pi Kappa Alpha and said it would never again be recognized on campus. The university also developed a plan to address anti-hazing efforts, including hiring a prevention coordinator and making it easier for students to tell the school about hazing.
Cory and Shari Foltz sued the university in June 2022, claiming that BGSU ignored hazing within Greek organizations, including the fraternity Stone was pledging to before a hazing ritual involving alcohol caused his death.
BGSU knew about Pi Kappa Alpha’s history of hazing, including the hazing ritual that killed Stone at the age of 20, the complaint alleged.
Foltz’s parents believed if it were not for the university’s “gross recklessness, lax policies, lax enforcement of those policies,” Foltz would still be alive.
For Cory and Shari, the goal of the lawsuit was to bring change at BGSU and college campuses across the nation when it comes to fraternities.
"We actually are demanding that there's increased education to students about hazing. We want more transparency, for parents," Cory said. "We want Greek Life organizations to be held to a zero tolerance. And we want the individual university leaders to take action immediately. We can't just wait, this needs to happen now."
The Foltz family has started a foundation focused on hazing education. In their lawsuit, his parents accused the school of failing to stop hazing in fraternities and sororities despite being aware of it.
The family said they have tried working with BGSU for more than a year to come up with some sort of resolution. Cory and Shari felt as if they had to come to the decision of the lawsuit.
"We have to get that change to occur first. And you know, everything has been reactive at this point. And if we're not going to be preventive, and make a change, then it's going to need to come from the university presidents and the boards," Shari said. "Otherwise, we're just going to continue to be reactive and another death is going to occur, and you can't react after the death. We need to have change now."
BGSU initially released a statement that says while Foltz's death is a tragedy, the lawsuit is "meritless and undermines" the university's efforts to stop hazing.
University officials said on Monday that in addition to the $2.9 million payout, BGSU is partnering with the Foltz family to eliminate hazing across the country.