Linfield student files $8.3 million lawsuit alleging hazing against Pi Kappa Alpha

Malia Riggs, News editor

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A Linfield student lost his eye due to a firework in an alleged fraternity hazing event last year. He is suing Pi Kappa Alpha, Linfield College, and William Samp who was the president of the fraternity at the time, and others for $8.3 million.

The incident occurred on April 15 when Kellen Johansen was allegedly pressured by members of  Linfield’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity into drinking alcohal under aged and to run naked through the McMinnville campus. His lawsuit states that members of the fraternity allegedly ordered him to perform these actions as part of a new pledge class initiation.

The lawsuit also states that Samp ignited an illegal firework that exploded, ricocheting off of the ground into Johansen’s eye.

The damage from the firework was so severe that surgeons removed Johansen’s eye in Dec. 2016 at the Casey Eye Institute in Portland after multiple failed attempts at correcting his vision.

Scott Nelson, Director of Communications and Marketing told the Linfield Review that the college was notified by a reporter yesterday afternoon that a lawsuit had been filed and that there was an allegation of hazing.

“Although we have not been served with the complaint. That’s the first we’ve heard about the hazing, we prohibit all forms of hazing, and the fraternities and sororities know that” Nelson said.

In a statement from the national fraternity, they claim the incidents that caused Johansen’s injury were not part of a formal function put on by the fraternity.

The national fraternity also stated that “Johansen was hurt during a 3 a.m. informal gathering of only three individuals, all of whom were acting in their individual capacities without knowledge or authorization.”

The fraternity’s statement also goes on to say that Johansen was attempting to record the firework with his phone, getting dangerously close and not listening to another fraternity member’s plea to back away. The video was later deleted.

The fraternity also noted in the statement that Johansen had been an initiated member when the incident occurred.

“The allegations of hazing are simply not accurate with respect to the incident at issue, and the Chapter disputes the allegations as stated,” the statement continues.

Two months prior to the incident the chapter was put on probation by Linfield for not following the college’s rules and policies regarding alcohol. Shortly before the incident with Johansen, the college lifted the probation.

The suit claims that the college should have known that the fraternity could keep violating their policies and also states that the college is at fault for not thoroughly checking the storage shed on the fraternity’s property, where the fireworks were stored.

At the time of the incident Johansen was a sophomore. He will be returning for spring semester.

“We worked with the student’s family to make housing and academic accommodations,” said Nelson. “This is a terrible accident. Fortunately our student has been able to continue his studies and we look forward to him returning to campus.”

In the suit, Johansen’s mother Pamela Halloran is suing for $175,000 for travel expenses, Johansen’s medical costs and time spent caring for her son.  

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Linfield student files $8.3 million lawsuit alleging hazing against Pi Kappa Alpha