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Parents of Murdered LSU Student Received $6.1M

A jury in Baton Rouge on Wednesday awarded $6.1 million in damages to the parents of an LSU student who died in 2017 shortly after he was bullied at a college fraternity house.

Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver prevailed in their wrongful death lawsuit over the loss of their 18-year-old son, Max Gruver.

Max was a first-year journalism student vying to become a member of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity when he underwent an agonizing ritual called “Bible Study.” Fraternity members spent nearly two hours grilling Max and others’ promises about the fraternity’s history and forcing them to drink excessive amounts of a high-volume grain alcohol called Diesel when they answered incorrectly.

Max died of alcohol poisoning and aspiration on September 14, 2017, less than 12 hours after the ordeal ended. He had a blood alcohol level of .495, more than six times the Louisiana legal limit.

A jury found that Ryan Matthew Isto, one of the liaison members who attended the Bible study event, was 2% responsible for Max’s death. They deliberated for more than 4½ hours after three days of hearing testimony in Isto’s civil trial in US Middle District Court in Baton Rouge.

The panel of five men and three women decided that Max’s parents should be compensated $6 million for the loss of their son and an additional $100,000 for the pain and agony Max endured during the hazing and afterwards in the final hours of his life should.

“This is definitely a message to would-be hazers across the country to stop and think about what you’re doing,” Gruver’s father Stephen said outside the courtroom shortly after the verdict. “Think about the dangers of bullying, think about how it can harm people and how you will be held accountable.”