Two days after News 15 reported details of a tragic crash that killed an international UL student last November, which may have been the result of fraternity hazing at Kappa Sigma, a lawsuit filed by the family of the driver involved is now coming to light.
It was not until Nov. 8, five days after the anonymous leak of a report on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s investigation into issues at Kappa Sig, and more than a year after the crash that killed Nizamutdinov, that the university publicly acknowledged a connection between the student’s death and hazing at the fraternity’s UL chapter.
In the petition filed Friday, Michael Gallagher Jr., the driver and former Kappa Sig pledge who killed Rustam Nizamutdinov, his father, Michael Gallagher Sr., a local homebuilder, and his mother have filed a lawsuit against the Kappa Sigma local and international organizations as well as the University of Louisiana’s Board of Supervisors seeking damages.
Gallagher claims to have suffered emotional distress and trauma after the incident as well as damages for his parents, who say they are separated now and undergoing therapy because of the tragedy that took a student’s life.
Gallagher says he was hazed as a Kappa Sigma pledge. According to a police report, he fell asleep and drifted off the road in the early hours of Nov. 6, 2016 and hit Nizamutdinov, killing him.
The suit argues the University’s Board of Supervisors should have known about the hazing and that the board violated its duty to protect students.
Following the crash, Gallagher pleaded no contest Jan. 9 to one count of careless operation of a vehicle with a fatality.
He was fined $330 and sentenced to take a driver’s education class.
When asked why the case wasn’t prosecuted, the district attorney’s office said in late March it didn’t feel there was a strong enough case to prove a crime had been committed, even though Gallagher pleaded no contest to the crash with the fatality two months earlier.
After waiting for a response to multiple requests for records and interviews, the University’s Office of Communications and Marketing sent a statement to news 15 saying that the university takes hazing seriously and halted all Kappa Sigma activities on Feb. 8 — three months after receiving a credible report and a month after Gallagher’s plea.
In late September, News 15 interviewed Margarita Perez, UL’s dean of students.
Perez talked about hazing and acknowledged the university suspended some Greek activities,but when pressed about Kappa Sigma, she would not answer directly.
On Sept. 29, she said this of the Kappa Sigma charter revocation: “Their national organization revoked their charter. You would have to address any questions to them,”
As reported last month, the national Kappa Sigma office suspended the local chapter’s charter in June.
In a statement Wednesday, the fraternity’s executive director explained that they expelled the chapter because students lied, saying officials from the fraternity’s headquarters discovered members were not “honest with the fraternity’s investigators.”
UL is saying out of respect for the judicial process and the parties involved, it will have no further comment. By comparison, in the wake of a fraternity pledge’s death at LSU earlier this fall, the university made public its investigative findings and has taken steps to control hazing, to include temporarily shutting down all Greek activities on campus.
The Nizamutdinov family also filed suit against Kappa Sigma and the University Board of Supervisors alleging that hazing lead to Rustam’s death, however, they are not suing Gallagher.