The mother of a Cornell fraternity brother who died after a pledging event has now filed a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit. 19-year-old George Desdunes, class of 2013, was pledging Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) on February 25 this year. The fraternity staged a mock kidnapping of him and another SAE member. They were taken to townhouse apartments on North Campus, where they had their hands and feet bound by duct tape and zip ties. Both were interrogated. Wrong answers were punished with exercise or drinks, such as flavored syrup or vodka.
After the "hazing," Desdunes was left to lay on the couch, his limbs still tied. He was eventually taken to Cayuga Medical Center, where he died. His blood alcohol content was discovered to be at 0.35 -- well above the New York State legal driving limit of 0.08.
SAE was suspended from Cornell and the national SAE suspended its Cornell members after news of the death spread. In May, three SAE members and a fourth individual were charged with "misdemeanor counts of first-degree hazing and first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child." They pleaded not guilty. The fourth individual was charged with tampering with physical evidence. He allegedly removed the tape and zip ties and attempted to dispose of them.
Desdunes's mother, Marie Lourdes Andre, filed her suit in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, against the fraternity and its local chapter officers and members.
Wrongful death cases in New York involve not just what pain and suffering the victim endured, but what type of financial loss the family suffered as a result of his death and the loss of a son to his parents and siblings, also known as a claim for loss of services.
If you would like more information about how wrongful death cases work in the state of New York, I encourage you to explore my educational website. If you have legal questions, I urge you to pick up the phone and call me at 516-487-8207 or by e-mail at [email protected] to answer your questions. That's what I do every day. I welcome your call.