When you mention fraternity initiations and hazing many people will think that you are referring to John Belushi’s comical scenes at the Delta House in the movie “Animal House.” But mention hazing to the family of a college freshman who died after being forced to down a fifth of vodka, or perhaps drowned after being thrown into a fast-running river, and they will tell you that hazing isn’t comic in the slightest degree.
While hazing has been relatively common at military schools, in the military itself, and in high school athletics, this page is concerned with hazing as a part of college fraternity initiations.
Hazing During Fraternity Initiations Is A Crime In Florida
Under Florida’s anti-hazing law, hazing is “… any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student…” This definition applies to forcing a student to commit any act that could reasonably expected to cause harm. Violations of the law can be punished as a first degree misdemeanor (up to 1 year in jail and/or $1,000 fine) and, if a student dies as a result of hazing, the person or persons that participated in the hazing can be charged with a 3rd degree felony (up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 fine).
Civil Lawsuits And Hazing
The fact that someone is facing criminal charges in connection with a death that occurred during a fraternity hazing ritual is of little comfort to the family of the victim. Given the fact that those responsible for the death of their son will probably receive less that maximum sentence allowed for even a misdemeanor conviction, many families will turn to the civil courts for justice by filing a civil lawsuit for wrongful death against those responsible for their son’s death.
In order to file a successful civil lawsuit for injuries or a death as a result of hazing, the following conditions must be proven in court:
The person or organization named in the lawsuit had a duty or responsibility to make sure that the one subjected to hazing would not be harmed.
The person or organization named in the lawsuit failed in that duty.
Under state law, a person named as a defendant in a hazing lawsuit cannot use the defense that since the one subjected to hazing was a voluntary consenting participant there was no injury. Nor can a defendant claim that the hazing incident was not sanctioned by the fraternity or at large or that the hazing was not an official condition of membership in the fraternity. Most lawsuits in hazing deaths will also name the college or university for having failed in its responsibility to adequately supervise the conduct of the fraternity members. The national headquarters of the fraternity is usually named as a defendant as well.
Statutes Of Limitations And Fraternity Hazing
The statutes of limitations are a set of laws that set the time frames in which a lawsuit may be filed. The statutes of limitations that will apply to most to hazing lawsuits are:
Personal injury: 4 years from date of injury
Defamation of character, slander, or libel: 2 years from the time of the incident
Wrongful death: 2 years from date of death
Contact the Fraternity Hazing Lawyer At The Doan Law Firm
No amount of money is enough to ease the pain that comes from the death of a son or daughter during a senseless ritual such as a fraternity or sorority initiation hazing, just as there is no amount of money that will bring a son or daughter back from death. The purpose of such lawsuits is to punish those responsible for that death be it an individual, an educational institution, or a fraternity and to insure that such deaths will not happen again.
If you have lost a son to hazing, or if he was injured during such activity, contact the fraternity hazing lawyer at the Doan Law Firm by calling (786) 671-0000 to arrange a free consultation regarding your case.
At the Doan Law Firm your first consultation with our fraternity hazing lawyer is always free of charge and you are, of course, never obligated to use our firm to manage your lawsuit. If you should ask us to represent you, we never charge you an up-front fee and we will pay all the fees and costs necessary to win your case in return for an agreed-upon percentage of your final settlement.