The hazing attorneys from Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. are seeking damages from Alpha Epsilon Pi and others on behalf of a 20-year-old former member who suffered permanent brain damage in April due to a violent fraternity tradition he didn’t volunteer for.
On April 9, 2018, Nicholas Mauricio was subjected to a secret fraternity tradition within the walls of the Alpha Epsilon Pi house at Florida State University. The 20-year-old FSU student had been elected the “Scumbag of the Week” by fellow fraternity members—to his surprise—and was told that, per the tradition, he would be struck in the face by another member. In the past, the facial strike was just a slap but this time, due to the peer pressure brought on by chants of “hit him!”, “hit him!”, the blow was much more severe.
A 20-year-old “brother” who was not a student at FSU and had never witnessed this event before was selected to do the job. Instead of a slap, he stuck Mauricio with such force he knocked him out and he fell to the floor, according to the lawsuit. Reporters at the Tallahassee Democrat cited sources that said the fraternity member punched Mauricio “as hard as he could.”
On impact, Mauricio cracked his tooth and fractured his skull, which led to multiple brain bleeds.
Alpha Epsilon Pi members drove him to the hospital, where they told doctors that Mauricio had fallen down the stairs. The brain injuries he suffered from his fall led to a condition called “encephalomalacia,” which creates areas of dead tissue in the brain. Due to permanent brain damage in his right frontal lobe, Mauricio now suffers from panic attacks, constant migraines, memory problems, post-traumatic stress, and other cognitive issues. He has been unable to return to school at Florida State University.
Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. is now representing Nicholas Mauricio against Alpha Epsilon Pi and the fraternity leaders who authorized the “Scumbag of the Week” event that night.
Since the hazing death of Florida State University student Andrew Coffey in November 2018, whose family Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. is also representing, FSU President John Thrasher has been vigilant regarding fraternity activity. He issued a campus-wide suspension of Greek life last winter and cracked down on hazing. Alpha Epsilon Pi was among the fraternities who were punished for hazing; the fraternity was banned from campus in January for two hazing violations and additional alcohol violations. However, fraternity leaders appealed the decision to the Greek conduct board and successfully overturned the ban.
In late March, Thrasher’s campus-wide suspension was lifted—and within weeks – AEPi conducted its “Scumbag of the Week” ritual. As a result, Mauricio will be forced to live with permanent loss of brain function for the rest of his life. Oliver Walker, the brother who struck Mauricio, is being criminally prosecuted for what he did. The leadership of the chapter, however, has not been criminally charged and Mauricio’s civil suit will be the only opportunity to hold all of them accountable for perpetuating this dangerous tradition.
Five of the fraternity members who were involved in Andrew Coffey’s death were criminally prosecuted under the “Chad Meredith Act”—an anti-hazing law named after another young man who died in a fraternity hazing incident at the University of Miami in 2001. Chad’s parents were also represented by Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. and that case resulted in a $14 million verdict; the largest fraternity hazing verdict in the country.
Over the last two decades, led by David W. Bianchi, the lawyers from Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain P.A. have been a major architect of anti-hazing efforts in the State of Florida and elsewhere. Mr. Bianchi, working with the Florida legislature, drafted much of Florida’s current anti-hazing law which is one of the toughest in the country.
“I have dedicated my law practice to representing families devastated by the senseless acts of hazing that continue to occur all over the country,” said Mr. Bianchi. “Although we cannot bring their sons back, we work tirelessly to obtain justice for the grieving parents and justice of the fraternity members like Nicholas Mauricio whose lives have been forever changed by these insane traditions, and we will continue to do so without let up. It is our mission: justice one case at a time.”
Today, he and his colleagues continue to steer the conversation regarding campus safety and fraternity accountability.
To learn more about the firm and its efforts, visit their website at https://www.stfblaw.com.