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Who Pays for Damages Caused by Hazing?

Over the past decade, publicized fraternity, sorority, and school related hazing injuries has been on the rise. The injuries and deaths related to hazing is a scary topic facing students, parents, school administrators, teachers, high schools, colleges, and universities. According to a report by author Hank Nuwer, from 1959-2018, at least one death each year has occurred on a heavily populated American campus.

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Hazing is defined as harassing, abusing, or humiliating a person as a way of initiating them into a club, sorority, or fraternity. It is an act that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student. According to noted hazing expert Hank Nuwer, 82% of deaths from hazing involve alcohol. Examples of hazing include:

  • Paddling
  • Branding
  • Forced drinking of alcohol to excess
  • Extreme mental and emotional punishment and torture
  • Unwanted physical contact (Striking, fighting, etc.)
  • Sexual misconduct/assault
  • Kidnapping/imprisonment

The above referenced forms of hazing are just a few of the life-threatening examples used by some organizations, while other minor practices are also dangerous. If hazing results in serious injury or death, then the question becomes one of liability.  

Most people would assume that the university or school overseeing the participating organization would be liable, but that is not usually the case. Courts have found that schools are not directly responsible for the actions of individual students when participating in non-sanctioned school events. Therefore, most of the legal liability in hazing incidents lies with the participating student, fraternity, and national fraternity/sorority chapters.  

While hazing still occurs across high schools and colleges, states have tried to act to discourage such practices. In Tennessee, T.C.A. 49-2-120 requires each school system in Tennessee to adopt a written policy prohibiting hazing and for each school system to educate students on the dangers of hazing. For more information on hazing, please visit https://hazingprevention.org/.

The State of Louisiana has gone a step further. The Louisiana Senate passed a bill in May 2018 allowing Plaintiffs to seek additional, higher damages than usual in cases where a hazing death is caused by reckless disregard for the student’s safety. We look forward to other states enacting stricter anti-hazing legislation that will help to protect students. More information on the Louisiana anti-hazing bill can be found at The Office of the Governor.

As parents we all pray for the safety of our children when they enter high school and college. Unfortunately, the mistakes by a few individuals can have life-threatening and horrific consequences. If your child has been injured due to hazing, you need to contact an attorney at The Chiozza Law Firm to discuss your available rights and options. Allow us to investigate the matter for you, demanding answers and information from all involved. It is our guarantee to every potential client that we will provide a confidential and honest case assessment. Whether we can assist you or not, we are more than happy to discuss any potential legal matter with every person that stops by our downtown Memphis offices at 230 Adams Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103.  

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Posted by Brian Chiozza at 2:20 PM
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