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Fraternity hazing ritual almost killed ex-San Diego State University student whose blood alcohol content was six times legal limit: Lawsuit

Benjamin Brenan (Courtesy of the Gibson family)

Benjamin Brennan (Courtesy of the family)

A former San Diego State University fraternity pledge has filed a lawsuit, alleging he was dumped outside a hospital emergency department unconscious and vomiting by his would-be frat brothers, who forced him to drink so much that his blood alcohol content was six times the legal limit in a fraternity hazing ritual gone wrong.

Benjamin Brennan’s lawsuit alleges members of a chapter of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity beat him with paddles while unconscious on a couch during the hazing and drove him to a hospital after 90 minutes. The lawsuit alleges the frat boys lied to the cops about the cause of his injuries, blaming a junior college baseball team.

Brennan, who was 19 at the time of the April 2021 incident, wound up on a ventilator, and doctors gave him a 1% chance of survival, the lawsuit alleged.

“We are just grateful Ben didn’t die,” said Kirk Gibson, Brennan’s stepfather, in a statement. “We can’t stand by and let this happen again. We refuse to look back one day and wish we had done something to protect others.”

The California lawsuit filed on Thursday in San Diego Superior Court names Kappa Sigma Fraternity, Kappa Sigma Fraternity Epsilon-Iota chapter, Kappa Sigma officers, nine Kappa Sigma members, and the owners of the frat house. The lawsuit alleges numerous health and safety violations, aiding and abetting, failure to comply, hazing and conspiracy.

Family lawyer James Frantz said Kappa Sigma, its members, and the companies involved showed “deliberate, reckless, negligent, and extreme disregard for his safety and welfare, compounded by a shameless and unrepentant attempt to cover up their actions.”

“Being almost hazed to death is not what Benjamin Brennan signed up for when he went to college,” Frantz said in a statement.

Mitchell Wilson, the executive director of the national Kappa Sigma Fraternity, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Law&Crime. But he told Fox News Digital that the fraternity is “aware of the lawsuit” and will “review it closely” once they receive it.

“What happened to Benjamin Brennan is unacceptable under any circumstances, and the Kappa Sigma Fraternity has taken action against the individuals who were involved,” Wilson said. “As an organization, we continue to adamantly oppose hazing, the misuse of alcohol and placing the health and safety of any person at risk.”

SDSU, not named in the lawsuit, said it suspended Kappa Sigma from SDSU in 2020 and expelled the fraternity in 2022. University officials said the chapter appealed the university’s decision earlier this year, and the university upheld the expulsion.

“The chapter is not an approved, recognized student organization (RSO) and has not been since May 2020,” the university said. “It is an off-campus location and not managed by SDSU.”

The university said student safety is paramount.

“Participation in hazing will result in both individual and organizational disciplinary action, including possible expulsion,” the statement said. “At SDSU, we expect all of our students to uphold our institutional values and for our students to also honor the policies of their local and national chapters and the distinct values of their organizations.”

The complaint said the incident happened at a “Big Brother” night on April 16, 2021, where Brennan and other eager young pledges would complete the “final hurdle for the 2021 Omicron pledge class.”

Brennan was relieved. Six weeks of pledging would finally come to fruition, and he’d gain membership into the fraternity, the lawsuit said.

“The process had been demanding and burdensome, requiring him to sacrifice a great deal to remain in the pledge class,” the complaint alleged.

It all started when Brennan, working a part-time night shift at a restaurant, got a text from a frat member:

“Report to the KS FRAT HOUSE by 9:00 p.m. in order to be permitted to continue pledging,” the complaint said.

That gave him about 30 minutes.

Brennan left his job immediately, which led to his being fired, and reported to the frat house as ordered, the lawsuit alleged.

Once at the frat house, the initiation began. Brennan’s cellphone and car keys were taken, and he was forced to consume alcohol and became intoxicated to the point of incapacity, the lawsuit alleged.

At one point, Brennan was ordered to finish a 750 ml bottle of hard liquor within 30 minutes and to smoke a potent form of tobacco and marijuana, the lawsuit alleged.

He was forced to continue consuming alcohol even “after he could no longer care for himself, stand, or speak,” the complaint said.

The frat members had the pledges do calisthenics, smoke tobacco and marijuana, and drink hard liquor, “varying and mixing alcohol intake and substance,” court documents said.

“The simple act of pushing the pledges to continue to move and drink even after they were not in control of their own facilities were all intended to get them as drunk and ‘wasted’ as possible,” the lawsuit alleged.

At one point, frat members struck an unconscious Brennan repeatedly with paddles while he lay on a couch, unable to move or speak, court documents said.

The document said he became comatose for about 90 minutes before he was driven to the hospital, where he was allegedly dumped in the entryway of the emergency room while the frat members drove away.

Hospital personnel found Brennan unconscious and vomiting, the lawsuit alleged.

He was placed on life support. His blood alcohol content level was .489. Doctors found THC in his system.

His stepfather said Brennon dropped out of SDSU, “leaving him with enormous student debt and nothing to show for it.”

He’s still recovering.

“If this had not happened, Ben would be a junior at SDSU pursuing his business degree,” he said. “Instead, this life-altering event left him physically and mentally injured and has sent him into a tailspin.”

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