‘Death of A Pledge: the Adam Oakes Story’: Adam Oakes’ family sues Delta Chi for $28 million

Delta Chi’s house on West Clay Street after the fraternity letters were removed following the death of Adam Oakes. Photos by Wessam Hazaymeh

Selna Shi, News Editor

Adam Oakes’ family filed a civil lawsuit against 11 members of the Delta Chi fraternity, alumni advisor to the fraternity and the national Delta Chi fraternity, according to Courtney White, president of the Love Like Adam Foundation and Adam Oakes’ cousin.

The Oakes family is suing for $28 million in damages, the fraternity’s involvement with Adam Oakes’ death and refusal to acknowledge misconduct in the VCU chapter, according to WRIC.

Adam Oakes died due to alcohol poisoning at a Delta Chi fraternity party in February 2021. The fraternity was suspended by VCU and the national chapter the day after his death, according to a previous report from The Commonwealth Times.

Karl Grindel, executive director and CEO of the Delta Chi fraternity, stated in an email that the national fraternity has cooperated with law enforcement and permanently expelled all members who were involved in Adam Oakes’ death.

“What the Oakes family has experienced is something no family should have to endure,” Grindel stated. “Hazing, the misuse of alcohol and putting the health and safety of any person at risk has no place in Delta Chi.”

Grindel also stated that Delta Chi continues to fund hazing prevention research and support anti-hazing legislations.

Courtney White stated in an email that the foundation and the family members cannot comment on the lawsuit as of now.

“We know that the filing of these lawsuits will not bring Adam back,” Courtney White stated. “But we are hopeful that by holding Delta Chi, the VCU chapter of Delta Chi and each of the individual fraternity brothers accountable, it will send a message that echoes across America’s national greek organizations and college campuses that change is coming.”

Death of a Pledge: The Adam Oakes Story,” an 18 minute documentary directed by Daniel Catullo, recalls the night of Adam Oakes’ death. The documentary includes interviews from Adam Oakes’ parents, Courtney White and a few Delta Chi members who were involved with the death.

Catullo said he initially interviewed the Delta Chi members for “use in educational programs,” according to WRIC

“After hearing it from their [members of Delta Chi] mouths, exactly what happened, I realized we had something that was pretty powerful and people needed to see it,” Catullo stated in the article.

Andrew White, the “big brother” to Adam Oakes in the fraternity, said in the documentary that he provided Adam Oakes a “handle” or 1.75 liters of Jack Daniels, the night of Adam Oakes’ death.

After Adam Oakes drank the entire bottle of Jack Daniels, Andrew White brought Adam Oakes outside of the fraternity house to throw up, according to the documentary. 

“He [Adam Oakes] put his finger in his mouth and made himself throw up and after that happened, my guard went completely down,” Andrew White stated in the documentary. “I thought everything was okay. I thought everything would be fine.”

Many of the big brothers took their little brothers to their houses to watch over them, but Andrew White did not take Adam Oakes home, according to Courtney White. 

Andrew White said he and other members checked on Adam Oakes periodically throughout the night before falling asleep themselves. 

Eric and Linda Oakes, Adam Oakes’ parents, stated in the documentary that they had to inform Adam Oakes’ grandfather, who was sick with stage four cancer, that his grandson had died. 

Alison Martin, the prosecutor who handled Adam’s case, stated in the documentary that Adam Oakes’ alcohol level at the time of the death was excess of .4%. 

Blood alcohol level of .3% to .4% is considered alcohol poisoning, according to Cleveland Clinic. Over .4% is a potentially fatal blood alcohol level. 

“He didn’t even have a chance,” Martin said.

Eric Oakes said there were three or four 911 calls made, regarding the noise disturbance, but the police never responded.

“At any point had they [police] knocked on the door and asked them [the fraternity] to stop or if they’d come inside, they would have seen Adam needing help,” Eric Oakes said. “He’d [Adam Oakes] still be alive today.”

Andrew White was sentenced to 24 months of reformative practices, 12 months on probation, 100 hours of community service and to participate in a restorative justice program with the Oakes family, according to a previous article from The Commonwealth Times

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