Insurance Company Says it Doesn't Have to Pay for Fraternity Hazing Death of Cal Poly Student Carson Starkey
A little more than two years ago, Carson Starkey, an 18-year-old freshman at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, was found dead in the utility room of a fraternity from alcohol poisoning.
Starkey had been pledging Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and during a ritual hazing dubbed, "Brown Bag Night," he and his fellow pledges were allegedly ordered to sit in a circle and each consume an entire bottle of hard liquor in 90 minutes.
After Starkey died, his family sued the fraternity chapter and its members, claiming they were liable for his death.
But now the insurance company that covers the national SAE fraternity is suing the Cal Poly chapter, saying it doesn't have to pay if Starkey's family wins in court.
According to the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, the insurance company Liberty Corporate Capital claims that it does not cover the Cal Poly SAE members but only the national organization.
Furthermore, says Liberty, there are specific exemptions in the insurance policy that enable the company to escape having to pay, namely hazing and underage drinking.
As such, the company is asking the court to declare that the chapter and its members are not insured under the policy and are excluded under the hazing and underage drinking provisions.
Two of the students who were involved with the event the night Starkey died have since pleaded no contest to hazing and were sentenced to probation and less than four moths in jail.
In addition, fraternities at Cal Poly have reportedly run pledge events without using alcohol since Starkey's death.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.