Greek Life Hazing Liability

If you or your son or daughter have been a victim of fraternity or sorority hazing, you are probably overwhelmed by the possible actions you could take.  After seeking medical attention, you may also notify the police and college administration about the incident.  Criminal and educational sanctions are not the only way you can receive justice, however: your son or daughter may also be able to recover financially from the people who hurt them and those who allowed violent hazing to occur at your college.

Whenever you have been the victim of a crime or received an injury due to another’s negligence, you should document your injury as soon as possible and continue to take photos and notes throughout your recovery.  Take photos of your injury as it heals and keep a journal of the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms you experience.

Because there are so many groups involved in the existence of Greek life on college campuses, there are many possible avenues for recovery if you have been a victim of hazing.  While there are no certain routes to recovery, you may be able to recover from the local fraternity or sorority chapter, the national fraternity or sorority, the school, and/or the individual members who hazed you, depending upon the state in which the incident took place, among other factors.

Although resolutions of cases receive less media attention than the hazing incidents themselves, plaintiffs have been successful in securing settlements to compensate for the injuries inflicted by violent and irresponsible hazing.  Payments have come from both the fraternities and the universities that facilitated their operation.[1]  A judge in Pennsylvania recently allowed two hazing lawsuits against Penn State to go forward despite the college’s arguments that they should be dismissed.[2]  In Virginia, however, claims against public universities will be much more difficult than those against private universities.  The field of hazing law is still in its infancy, but recent developments have been promising.  It is a good time for young people who have been victims of hazing to stand up and, through the court system, protect others from suffering similar injuries.

Finally, victims should keep in mind that there is a generational divide in how hazing is viewed.  Many non-millennials may think it is acceptable for hazing to be tolerated by national fraternities and colleges, and may see it as a “normal” part of the college experience.  However, most of us millennials don’t think this is acceptable and don’t want to pay tens of thousands of dollars in tuition to institutions that foster dangerous environments.  So, if you receive an inadequate response from the police or college, don’t let that discourage you from seeking civil justice; attorneys at Blankingship & Keith share your values and believe in holding Greek organizations, colleges, and individual students accountable for reckless actions that lead to hazing injuries.  Talk to a personal injury lawyer at Blankingship & Keith today to learn about your options.

-- Lainie Singerman, lsingerman@bklawva.com