The parents of an Eden Prairie man have sued a University of Missouri fraternity after their son suffered brain injuries during a pledge party in October 2021, according to media reports.
Daniel Santulli, 19, has been unresponsive and requires constant medical care since he was forced to drink a bottle of vodka at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, known as Chi Mu, on Oct. 20, 2021, according to the lawsuit.
Santulli is unable to speak and remains unaware of his surroundings, according to the family’s lawyers.
The suit, which names 23 defendants, alleges that pledges to the fraternity were expected to drink an entire bottle of alcohol as part of a fraternity tradition, the Columbia Missourian reported.
Santulli was found in cardiac arrest inside a car at University Hospital on Oct. 20, according to the lawsuit. His blood alcohol content was 0.486, more than six times the legal limit for driving.
News reports at the time did not identify Santulli or his condition.
Miami-based attorney David Bianchi described the incident as the worst injury of any fraternity pledge he has seen.
According to his biography on his firm’s website (Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain), Bianchi is recognized as one of the nation’s most successful lawyers in fraternity hazing cases.
“This should have never happened, and hopefully, this case can be part of the change,” Bianchi said Thursday.
Santulli is in an out-of-state rehab facility, Bianchi said.
The family is not available for comment, he added.
“They are a tremendous family,” he said. “Some of the finest people I ever met. They are doing their best to give their son the best care possible.”
The lawsuit claims Santulli and the rest of his pledge class at Phi Gamma Delta were each forced to drink a bottle of hard liquor given to them by their “pledge fathers.”
The lawsuit names the national Phi Gamma Delta organization and individual members of the Missouri chapter.
The national fraternity and university both suspended the Missouri chapter following Santulli’s hospitalization.
Bianchi said Santulli’s injury was not an isolated event, the Missourian reported.
Since 2017, Phi Gamma Delta, also known as Fiji, has had six documented violations of alcohol distribution policies and two hazing violations at the University of Missouri, according to the Missourian.
“Sadly, Danny and his family didn’t know anything about the fraternity’s sordid history,” according to the law firm’s statement. “So he happily agreed to pledge Phi Gamma Delta when he moved to campus.”
Santulli’s family received a letter from Phi Gamma Delta after he moved into the fraternity, explaining that Danny would “face situations where (his) values will be challenged,” the law firm said. “The letter called these situations’ testing points,’” it continued. “If Phi Gamma Delta were honest about what those ‘testing points’ entailed, they would have told Danny to stay away from the Chi Mu house at all costs.”
The law firm alleges that Santulli eventually collapsed on a couch where no fraternity “brother” or even his “pledge dad” bothered to check on him.
“No one told him it was okay to stop drinking and no one took the bottle from him and said ‘enough’ of this fraternity tradition,” the law firm’s release said. “A little while later, a fraternity member found Danny unresponsive, with pale skin and blue lips. Instead of calling 911, someone put Danny in his car and drove him to the hospital.”
The law firm lists several of Santulli’s duties as a pledge, which included getting food, alcohol and marijuana; buying things for the fraternity with his own money; and cleaning fraternity bedrooms.
“At one point, Danny was ordered to climb into a trash can with broken glass,” the law firm alleged. “He badly cut his foot, requiring stitches, and crutches.”
Daniel Santulli is a 2021 graduate of Eden Prairie High School and was a student manager on the school’s state champion hockey team that year. He also played on the basketball and baseball teams and worked at a local fitness club.
Santulli’s parents are Tom and Mary Pat Santulli of Eden Prairie. Tom is HCM Healthcare sales manager at Oracle National, and Mary Pat is a consultant at U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, according to LinkedIn posts.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Feb. 3 with comments from lawyer David Bianchi provided to EPLN. Stuart Sudak contributed to this story.