For thousands of college students, the onset of August means that the school year is around the corner and summer is coming to a dreaded end. That said, the beginning of the school year offers young college students the opportunity to explore Greek life, in hopes of receiving a bid from one of the many fraternities and sororities occupying a home on one of Arizona’s three state universities. For the college students who do receive a bid, it is likely that they will undergo some type of physical and mental hazing ritual during their quest for membership. While the vast majority of these rituals are harmless, resulting in nothing more than mild embarrassment, physical exhaustion, and a hangover, we as a society are not unfamiliar with hazing incidents resulting in serious injury and even death. Did you know that since 1970, at least one student has died from fraternity hazing each year?
While hazing is extremely common, it is important to understand that it may not be legal. In fact, most universities have policies against hazing that include penalties for any student in violation of such rules. Additionally, nearly every state in the U.S., including Arizona, has implemented anti-hazing laws. Depending on the seriousness of the violation, hazing is typically a misdemeanor offense punishable by fines and even jail time. Hazing offenses may also result in civil lawsuits, allowing the injured person to collect monetary damages from the individual(s) liable for any personal injuries.
As a matter of fact, a University of Arizona hazing incident that resulted in death actually set legal precedent in dealing with the recovery of monetary damages in civil suits. In this case, a U of A fraternity welcomed new members with a bid party. As one would imagine, alcohol was present; and so were minors – drinking underage. As the night concluded, one particular individual proceeded to leave the residence in which the party was located. That individual chose to drive drunk, and at 2:30 a.m. he crashed his car into another driver who died one and a half years later as a result of a brain injury suffered in the accident. Because the drunk driver was under 21, the Supreme Court of Arizona held (1) the fraternity; (2) each fraternity member who contributed to the social fund that semester; (3) the lessor of the property on which the fraternity house was located; (4) the national fraternity organization; (5) the Arizona Board of Regents; and (6) a student assigned to the fraternity through a university student education program aimed at reducing alcohol-related problems among fraternities and sororities liable. The Supreme Court held that the above individuals had a duty to avoid providing alcohol to underage drinkers, and thus face liability for the driver’s death.
Movies such as Animal House and Old School depict stereotypical images of fraternities running around, drinking, and causing ruckus. In these movies as well as most hazing incidents that take place on college campuses, young men and woman willingly participate in drinking games and the like because they want to fit in. Unfortunately, some of these rituals result in serious injury, sexual harassment, rape, and even death. It is important to understand that the law generally makes no allowances to the fact that some students consented to the abuse. Consent to hazing is not a defense, nor is it a defense to claim that the organization would have admitted the student regardless of the consent to hazing.
So, the question that must be answered is: what do you do if; you or a loved one suffers a personal injury, assault, harassment, or even death? Call an experienced and aggressive personal injury attorney at Torgenson Law. As these cases are complicated, you will need an experienced attorney to navigate the legal system and gain the just compensation in which you deserve. Give us a call at (602) 726-0747.