The mother and stepfather of a Cal State Northridge student who collapsed and died while hiking barefoot in the Angeles National Forest in a hazing ritual sued his fraternity and the California State University system Wednesday.
The negligence suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Maria and Joseph Serrato, who are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The CSU and Pi Kappa Phi are named as defendants, along with several individual members of the fraternity.
Armando Villa was hiking barefoot on July 1, 2014, with fellow fraternity pledges when they ran out of water. The hike was the last ritual the 19-year-old had to complete to become a full-fledged member of Pi Kappa Phi, the suit states.
A CSU spokesman issued a statement saying CSU officials “have not yet seen the actual lawsuit papers and thus cannot comment on the substance of the litigation. However, we can say that any claim that CSUN was in any way responsible for the tragic death of Armando Villa is untrue.”
CSUN conducted an independent probe into the circumstances surrounding Villa’s death, according to the statement.
“The investigation revealed that during the pledge process, members of Pi Kappa Phi engaged in hazing in violation of the CSU Student Conduct Code and CSUN’s Code of Ethics for University Recognized Student Clubs and Organizations,” the statement says. “CSUN had no knowledge of Pi Kappa Phi’s actions.”
After CSUN’s investigation, the university permanently banned Pi Kappa Phi from operating on the campus, according to the statement.
In their lawsuit, the Serratos allege that the defendants “failed to ensure that the hike could and would be conducted in a reasonably safe manner and under reasonably safe conditions.”
After the hikers ran out of water, Villa lost consciousness on the trail, off Vogel Flat Road near Big Tujunga Station. The hikers were able to flag down a forest ranger, and Villa was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
— City News Service