Court Rules Liability of National Fraternity May Be Based on Hazing and Alcohol Policies


May 20, 2013

The moment that kids receive acceptance letters from a university where they aspire to enroll, parents may be filled with pride and excitement, but also apprehension regarding the pending transition. Many new college students participate in "rush week" and pledge fraternities, which can provide housing, a social network and extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, hazing and alcohol are also part of the college experience in many fraternities and other student organizations. While most universities have anti-hazing policies and the practice of hazing is a criminal offense in many states, the practice of hazing new members of student organizations continues at colleges throughout the U.S.

A recent court decision in another state determined that the national fraternal organization may be liable for an alcohol-related fatality that occurred at one of its local chapters. The wrongful death lawsuit brought by a college freshman's heartbroken parents arises out of a death linked to compelled alcohol consumption that resulted in a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .40, which is 5 times the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle.

Freshmen pledges were required to consume alcohol as part of periodic hazing rituals. During a house party at the fraternity house the plaintiff's son became extremely intoxicated. The intoxicated student was carried to his room where the fraternity member was placed on his side so that he would not choke on his own vomit. Nonetheless, the freshman was discovered in the morning dead in a pool of his own vomit.

The national fraternal organization attempted to avoid liability for the tragic fraternity death by claiming that it was not responsible for the actions of those in the local chapter. However, the court rejected this position and indicated that the jury could find a duty of care based on the extensive rules and regulations promulgated by the national organization that addressed intoxication and hazing. The court ruled that assuming this authority over its chapters could be sufficient to make the national fraternity liable for the actions of it chapters in failing to comply with these policies.

The admission and enrollment of one's kids in college should be a happy experience, but when policies implemented by a university, local and national chapters of fraternal or student organizations or others fail to comply with safety policies regarding alcohol consumption and hazing, the consequences can be devastating. Our experienced Georgia hazing injury attorneys provide aggressive representation of the victims and families of those who suffer severe injury or wrongful death in alcohol-related incidents.

Our Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you.

Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.