COLUMBUS — Bowling Green State University will pay almost $3 million to the family of a student who died as a result of hazing.
At a press conference held Monday in Columbus, the family of Stone Foltz and their attorney announced they had reached a $2.9 million settlement with the university — the largest payout by a public university in a hazing litigation case in Ohio history.
“There’s never going to be any closure. Nothing is going to bring Stone back,” said Shari Foltz, his mother. “That piece of our hearts is never going to be filled again.”
Foltz died in March 2021 of blood alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party hosted by Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
“Obviously the money has nothing that means anything to us,” Shari Foltz said. “It’s not going to bring Stone back.
“But what is does is allow us to move forward and help us with the foundation and the education piece of it: Teach the students, the community, the parent, about hazing. We can continue our fight in saving lives.”
The parties issued the following joint statement: “This resolution keeps the Foltz family and BGSU community from reliving the tragedy for years to come in the courtroom and allows us to focus on furthering our shared mission of eradicating hazing in Ohio and across the nation. Leading these efforts in our communities is the real work that honors Stone.”
In addition to the settlement, there is a commitment by BGSU to partner with the Foltz family in an effort to eradicate hazing, said Rex Elliott, with the Cooper Elliott law office.
“What we have here is a university that has stepped up,” he said. “There’s no chance we’re ever going to stop hazing in this country if universities don’t take a more proactive stance to enforce anti-hazing rules.”
He praised BGSU President Rodney Rogers and university counsel for understanding the problem “and I believe they are committed to partnering with us to put a stop to hazing, certainly at Bowling Green and at other campuses in Ohio and beyond.”
From day one, the family and university have wanted the same thing: To eradicate hazing across the country, said Cory Foltz, father to Stone.
“I strongly believe that today, moving forward, we can work with Bowling Green and Bowling Green will be one of the first universities to take the big step toward eliminating hazing across the county,” he said.
This end of the civil trial differs from the criminal trial held in Wood County, in that it feels like now they can move forward, Shari Foltz said.
“We can make today a positive move where after the criminal trial, no one won,” said Cory Foltz. “We left there as grieving parents and those individual boys that were involved left there as criminals.”
Elliot said he has personally called for the end of pledge programs in Greek organizations, and has contacted the Intercultural Greek Council asking for support.
“Dramatic reform is needed, and it’s needed right now if we’re going to put a stop to this,” he said.
He said Greek organizations will not survive if hazing does not come to an end.
“If there are universities out there where this hasn’t happened, it’s just a matter of time if you continue to allow hazing to go on on your campuses,” Elliot said.
In 2021, the Foltz family started the iamstonefoltz foundation, which is dedicated to eradicating hazing by educating students, parents, educators and government leaders about the often-deadly ritual.
The settlement will enable them to introduce the dangers of peer pressure to high school students before they go to college, Shari Foltz said.
“I think he would tell us he is proud of us,” she said about her son. “We won’t stop, and that day in the hospital and making that promise to him to end hazing.”
The Foltz estate filed a complaint against BGSU in June, claiming the university was negligent in allowing their son’s off-campus hazing death after he drank a bottle of alcohol.
The Foltz lawsuit accused BGSU of being responsible for Stone’s death, saying that for years the university had turned a blind eye to hazing within its Greek organizations. Foltz was a pledge for Pi Kappa Alpha, known as PIKE.
Pi Kappa Alpha hosted an offcampus new member initiation March 4, 2021. The new members, who were all underage, were provided with a bottle of liquor. They were told the tradition was to consume the entire bottle.
Foltz consumed a 1-liter bottle of bourbon before being taken home by several fraternity members. He was left alone in his apartment and found by his roommate. When paramedics arrived, the roommate was administering CPR.
Foltz, 20, of Delaware, died March 7, 2021. His blood alcohol level was 0.35.
Jacob Krinn, who was Foltz’s Big Brother in the fraternity, and Troy Henricksen were each sentenced in August to spend 42 days in jail.
Five other defendants were sentenced from seven-28 days in jail and/or up to three years community control. All were convicted of at least one felony hazing charge.
Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was permanently expelled from BGSU in April 2021 and the university found 21 students responsible for a total of 83 violations of the BGSU Code of Student Conduct, including hazing, harm to and endangering others and furnishing alcohol. Three students were permanently expelled from the university; 17 students were suspended from the university for terms ranging from three to eight years; and one student received a deferred suspension.
To date, the Foltz estate has received an estimated total of more than $10 million from all parties, including 19 individuals and the national fraternity, with claims against four individuals outstanding as of Monday.
A lawsuit against the national PIKE fraternity and several of its members settled with a payment of $2.4 million.
The mutually agreed upon settlement fully releases any and all claims, including vicarious liability, against BGSU in Foltz’s death.