On Sept. 21, 2009, Scott and Julia Starkey filed a wrongful death complaint against the national and local chapters of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and nine fraternity members who attended Cal Poly. The complaint alleges “gross negligence” and a violation of “Matt’s Law,” the anti-hazing law.
Starkey died of alcohol poisoning in December 2008 during the fraternity’s “brown bag night,” in which the pledges were sent to a room that was covered in a tarp, with a bucket to collect vomit, and told to drink large amounts of alcohol. During the night Starkey became unresponsive. Some of the other fraternity members drove him toward the hospital—they first removed any frat paraphernalia Starkey was wearing—but turned back. Starkey was pronounced dead the following day with a blood alcohol level between .39 and .48 percent, according to the police. If Starkey had received medical treatment he might have survived, according to the lawsuit.