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The parents of a 19-year-old from Eden Prairie are suing a fraternity at the University of Missouri, alleging that their son went into cardiac arrest after he was forced to drink a bottle of vodka in an apparent "hazing" incident.

Daniel Santulli, who graduated from Eden Prairie High School in 2021, suffered "significant brain damage," his family's attorneys say. He can't speak and is unaware of his surroundings.

Thomas and Mary Pat Santulli filed the lawsuit on Jan. 27 — their son's 19th birthday — against the fraternity Phi Gamma Delta, commonly known as "Fiji," and 22 others, including individually named fraternity members, in connection to the Oct. 19, 2021, incident.

According to his family's attorneys with Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, that night Daniel Santulli, who was pledging the fraternity, was pressured to drink an entire bottle of Tito's vodka as part of fraternity tradition during a "pledge dad reveal night" party. 

He ended up collapsing on a couch at the frat house and then around midnight on Oct. 20, 2021, a fraternity member found him unresponsive with pale skin and blue lips, so someone put him in a car and drove him to the hospital instead of calling 911, the lawsuit alleges.

University Hospital staff went out to the car to find he wasn't breathing and in cardiac arrest, the lawsuit says. He was rushed to the intensive care unit and put on a ventilator, unable to breathe on his own. 

He had a blood-alcohol content of 0.468 — nearly six times the legal limit, the lawsuit states. 

Days later, Daniel Santulli was removed from the ventilator and started breathing on his own but "was unresponsive, unaware of his surroundings, unable to communicate and had a significant injury to his brain. He remains in that condition to this day," according to the suit.

David Bianchi, one of the Santulli family's attorneys, called what happened to Daniel "the worst injury of any fraternity pledge" he's seen in his 30 years of working in hazing litigation, according to the Columbia Missourian

But that's not all. The lawsuit alleges Daniel Santulli was wooed to pledge the fraternity in the fall of 2021, thinking he would make lifetime friends but instead he suffered a month of abuse leading up to the pledge dad reveal party. 

The lawsuit says he was "exhausted and depressed" when he was handed the bottle of vodka after being forced to be at the beck and call of frat brothers, at all hours, for the past month. This had taken a "serious toll on him" and led to his grades suffering. At one point, he was ordered to climb in a trash can that had broken glass in it, the lawsuit says. He cut his foot and had to go to the hospital for stitches, with his injuries requiring he use crutches. 

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Two days before the pledge dad reveal night, on Oct. 17, 2021, Daniel Santulli met with his sister and "broke down and cried to her," saying he was exhausted and he couldn't take it anymore. His sister told his parents and they encouraged him to quit, but he "wasn't a quitter" and "did not want to be humiliated and ridiculed" by members, the lawsuit says. 

On the night of the party, Daniel Santulli was among roughly 40 pledges remaining, the lawsuit says, and when they wanted to stop drinking, the brothers peer pressured them to continue. When Daniel Santulli wanted to stop, he was told to keep drinking because they "didn't want any pu***** around."

Phi Gamma Delta chapter at the University of Missouri has a "long and sordid history" of violations and alcohol abuse, dating back to when the seniors in the frat were freshmen and going through the pledging process, the lawsuit states. 

The lawsuit says frat members "could and should" have stopped the hazing on pledge dad reveal night but failed to do so, alleging 21 counts, including negligence by the frat, individually named members, and the frat's Board of Chapter Advisors, as well as vicarious liability of the national fraternity. 

In a statement to Bring Me The News, Rod Caudill, executive director of the national Phi Gamma Delta organization, said: 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Danny and the Santulli family during this difficult time.

"We have received the civil complaint and are reviewing it. The chapter at the University of Missouri is suspended by the international fraternity and we continue to provide support and cooperation when requested by local authorities as they pursue their investigation.

"We expect all chapters and members to follow the law and abide by the Fraternity’s policies which prohibit hazing and the provision of alcohol to minors."

The lawsuit seeks judgment from the defendants and demands a trial by jury.

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