N.J.: Insurer can’t duck Rider U. defense costs in hazing death

By Linda Stein
Times of Trenton
NEW JERSEY — A federal judge has ordered an insurance company to pay up to $1 million to defend Rider University, which was sued by the family of a student who died of alcohol poisoning during a fraternity initiation ritual that resulted in charges of hazing against students and administrators.

The insurer, Landmark American Insurance Co., last year filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court asking the court to relieve it of its contract to insure the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity and Rider, arguing that costs related to hazing were excluded.

Gary DeVercelly Jr., an 18-year-old freshman from Long Beach, Calif., died after drinking most of a bottle of vodka during a March 2007 PKT initiation ritual called “Big Little Night.” His parents, Gary Sr. and Julie DeVercelly, allege negligence, misconduct and wrongful death and are asking the court for $75 million. That case, filed in 2007, remains pending before Superior Court Judge Andrew Smithson. Full story.

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