Tragic Fatality Demonstrates Adverse Effects of Lax Anti-Hazing Policies


December 28, 2012

The recent tragic death of a Northern Illinois University freshman student in a fatal hazing incident has refocused national attention on the dangers of hazing.

Almost two dozen members of a fraternity at the university are facing criminal charges for hazing offenses following the fatal alcohol poisoning death of their fellow fraternity member. The hazing incident involved the freshman going from room to room answering questions and drinking vodka over a two hour period during the "parents' night" event. He was found dead the next morning in a bed in the fraternity. His blood alcohol level was five times the legal limit for driving of .08 percent BAC.

While fraternities were permitted to host parents' nights on campus, media reports indicate the fraternity hid the event from university administrators so that they could avoid being subject to university alcohol policies. Registered activities and gatherings typically results in inspections by university officials to ensure compliance with school rules. Although it is impossible to know whether this tragedy would have been averted had the fraternity complied with school policy, there is at least a chance that an inspection would have been conducted that could have prevented this tragedy. However, the deceit by the fraternity has resulted in DeKalb County filing felony hazing charges against the five leaders of the fraternity and misdemeanor charges against 17 other members.

Georgia has an anti-hazing law specifically designed to prevent this type of tragedy. Georgia's anti-hazing makes it a criminal offense for any school or school organization to engage in any activity which "endangers or is likely to endanger the physical health of a student, regardless of a student's willingness to participate in such activity." O.C.G.A. 16-5-61 (2010). While this provision makes hazing either a misdemeanor or felony based on the specific circumstances, criminal convictions do not directly result in financial compensation to a hazing victim or hazing victim's family.

Financial compensation for hazing-related injuries must be sought through a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Hazing incidents are under-reported because many victims who suffer serious physical and emotional abuse are embarrassed to report this type of activity. While many universities and national fraternal organizations are working to reduce hazing incidents that cause serious injuries and fatalities, sometimes schools do not take adequate steps to implement anti-hazing policies, and national fraternal organizations look the other way, permitting this dangerous conduct to continue. When these lapses occur, the local fraternity, national organization, university administration and offenders in the fraternity may all be legally responsible for the resulting harm endured by hazing victims.

Our Georgia personal injury attorneys carefully evaluate lapses in enacting and implementing anti-hazing rules when reviewing these situations. Montlick and Associates is available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. 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: Personal Injury

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