Hazing Accidents At Schools: Who Is Liable?
As fall starts to approach, many of our kids will be headed off to college. With college comes fraternities, sororities, and other clubs and activities, and that means hazing is potentially involved. Although some schools and organizations do better than others, hazing is still a problem, and can still lead to liability for students who are injured at these kinds of events.
Hazing Lawsuits are Common
Lawsuits for hazing related activities do happen. Lawsuits alleging accidents in hazing related events are common, although surprisingly, there are no legal requirements for schools to report hazing accidents, so there is no national database to track how many actually occur.
There is a bill that is being considered to require such reporting (of all accidents on college campuses, not just hazing), but it is not known if the bill will pass yet. The bill was proposed after a college student was injured while skateboarding on campus. The family alleges that the school knew that the pathway where the student was skateboarding was uneven, but did nothing about it.
That is the very same attitude that many hazing related lawsuits allege occurs on college campuses—that colleges look the other way at hazing activities, which often happen under the noses of college administrators.
Alcohol Plays a Part
Sadly, many hazing activities are not only dangerous, but the danger is compounded with the presence of alcohol; a recent University of Missouri student went into cardiac arrest after a hazing incident, in part because of alcohol poisoning. Many hazing activities are based on drinking games, or challenging students to drink as much as they possibly can.
Who is Liable?
Whether schools are liable for what happens is very much specific to each case. Liability will often depend on how much the school knew of the hazing events, and the hazing event’s proximity to the school. Accidents that happen on campus, or at school sponsored events, are more likely to lead to liability for the school.
Schools that know of hazing events—for example, from prior accident reports, or student or parent complaints—but do nothing to investigate or curtail the problem, are more likely to be liable for hazing related accidents.
Even if the school cannot be held liable, there may be other entities that are; the sororities or fraternities themselves may have liability for hazing events.
Schools will often try to put the blame on the students, saying they were acting without the schools’ knowledge, or that the victim voluntarily engaged in dangerous activities. Some will contend that the victims may have made their situation or injuries worse, by taking drugs or medicines.
This is a question that the jury must resolve, but in many cases, schools are liable for hazing related accidents on campus.
Was your child injured at an event or activity while in school or college? Call the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Pike & Lustig today.