A fraternity and its insurer have dismissed a lawsuit they filed against four Utah State University chapter members that sought to recover a wrongful-death payout in the alcohol poisoning of a USU student.

In the fall of 2008, freshman Michael Starks consumed a lethal dose of vodka in a Sigma Nu pledging event later deemed a hazing by Logan authorities. The fraternity shut down the chapter and paid an undisclosed sum to Starks’ parents, George and Jane Starks of Salt Lake City, to settle a threatened lawsuit.

Citing a hazing exclusion to the insurance policy, RSUI Inc., a Georgia-based insurance wholesaler that had indemnified Sigma Nu, and the fraternity argued in court filings that chapter officers Cody Littlewood, Colton Hansen and Mitchell Alm and pledge Chad Burton were not covered and should be on the hook for at least $50,000 each. All four had been named in a lawsuit the Starks family had prepared against the fraternity but didn’t file when the out-of-court settlement was reached.

A 1st District judge was set to hear arguments to dismiss the insurance suit last month, but the parties reached an agreement on April 20, according to Burton’s lawyer, Richard Glauser.

“They [the insurer] have a fiduciary duty to defend these guys and indemnify them [against the Starks suit]. They are the shield,” said Glauser, who filed motions to have the suit thrown out. “To get around [the insurance policy] they tried to say these guys weren’t the insureds [and] didn’t owe them a defense because there was a hazing exclusion.”

The exclusion kicks in only if a fraternity member participated in the hazing and directed others to participate, according to Glauser. Only one of the defendants in the suit, Littlewood, was among the 13 USU students charged with crimes arising from the tragedy. Criminal charges were dropped against most, including Littlewood, and no one was ultimately convicted of hazing.

“When this bad thing happened, my clients stood up and dealt with this. This is about having responsibility shared by the company with the individuals there in Logan who were doing what they were doing,” said RSUI’s lawyer, John Lund, who filed the suit last August. Lund said he could not divulge the terms of the settlement. Glauser said his client paid nothing.

The tragedy unfolded when fraternity members arranged to have Starks and another pledge “captured” by members of the neighboring Chi Omega sorority. The young women took the pledges to an off-campus home, stripped them to their shorts, bound their hands, painted their skin Aggie blue and provided a bottle of vodka, most of which Starks drank, according to police reports. Starks died later that night after being taken to a hospital.

“The lawsuit was not well thought-out against any of these guys,” Glauser said.

Glauser and Hansen’s lawyer prepared counterclaims against the insurer, accusing them of acting in bad faith, but Glauser said he intends to drop the matter.

The Starks sued Utah State but dropped the case after the university improved guidance of campus organizations concerning alcohol abuse and hazing.