Hazing Claims: When Tradition Is Taken Too Far

Despite crackdowns by schools and state legislatures, college and high school students continue to get injured and even killed during hazing rituals.

Many people have heard about the infamous Louisiana State University (“LSU”) fraternity incident, in which LSU student Maxwell Gruver and other fraternity pledges had received a group text saying a “Bible study” would take place that evening at a chapter house where they would be grilled about the fraternity and forced to do “wall sits” and “planks” and take slugs of “Diesel” if they gave the wrong answer.

Subsequently, Gruver was pelted with hot sauce and mustard and ordered to recite the Greek alphabet as part of his initiation into the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. For every instance he messed up the alphabet, he was forced to chug hard liquor.  He became severely intoxicated.

Due to extreme alcohol consumption, Gruver was rushed to the hospital, where he passed away. According to the Baton Rouge hospital, Gruver had a blood alcohol level of .495 – more than six times the legal intoxication level in most states. An autopsy later revealed that Gruver died as the result of “acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration.”

Because of Gruver’s death, 10 current and former LSU students were formally charged with hazing—and one of them, Matthew Alexander Naquin, 19, was charged with negligent homicide.

Hazing is a recurring problem at many universities which may subject individuals, schools, and organizations to civil liability. If you or your child is injured while being hazed by members of a fraternity, band, sports team, or other school organization, can you sue for your injuries?

What is Hazing?

Arizona Revised Statute § 15-2301 defines “Hazing” as any intentional, knowing or reckless act committed by a student, whether individually or in concert with other persons, against another student, and in which both of the following apply:

(a) The act was committed in connection with an initiation into, an affiliation with or the maintenance of membership in any organization that is affiliated with an educational institution.

(b) The act contributes to a substantial risk of potential physical injury, mental harm or degradation or causes physical injury, mental harm or personal degradation.

Suing the Individuals Responsible

One option for injuries caused by hazing is to sue the individuals responsible for causing the injuries, such as members of a fraternity. Depending on the circumstances, there may be more than one legal theory which may result in liability:

Intentional Torts. Intentional torts include battery, assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Along with compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the injury, intentional torts may also be subject to punitive damages.

Negligence. It may also be possible to sue for negligence. While intentional torts typically require someone to do something, negligence can occur when someone fails to do something, like failing to intervene in a hazing beating.

Suing the Organization and School

It is also possible to sue the school or private organization responsible for overseeing the group within which the hazing took place.

The basis of the claim against the fraternity is that it knew and supported hazing practices.

The basis of the claim against the school is that the university knew about the dangerous fraternity hazing practices and failed to do anything about them (such as reprimand or suspend the fraternities).

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Although hazing claims can be made for other types of injuries, when a victim dies as a result of hazing, his or her family may bring a wrongful death claim in order to seek justice. A wrongful death claim is a way for a family to recover compensation to cover the costs of any expenses that arose as a result of their family member’s death. In Arizona, a wrongful death claim provides beneficiaries with the ability to recover damages in an event that the person’s death was considered wrongful. Although a wrongful death claim will not bring a family member back, it will ensure that the family does not endure financial hardship in the aftermath of the death.

 What is a family entitled to?

A family who loses a loved one is faced with immense grief. Arizona’s wrongful death statute allows each survivor to recover the lost support and services from the date of the person’s death and future loss of support and services. Loss of support and services is determined by taking the survivor’s relationship to the decedent, the amount of the decedent’s probable net income available to the survivor and the replacement value of the decedent’s services to the survivor. Either parent may maintain the action for the death of a child.

A spouse may also be entitled to loss of decedent’s companionship, and, if the children do not have a surviving parent, then they will receive money for lost parental support.

Contact Quintana Law About a Hazing Claim

If you have been injured due to hazing or if you have lost a loved one to hazing involving a public or private school or university then you may be entitled to damages. Contact Quintana Law for a FREE consultation at (602) 418-0733. We can help.

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