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Justice On Your Side. Serving Savannah, Augusta, Atlanta and Beyond.

College Hazing and Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Hazing is a term that has been around for generations and has made a name for itself on college campuses. The word “hazing” is typically associated with the initiation process for fraternities and sororities. While many colleges and universities have condemned, limited, and banned hazing practices among their students, these practices have persisted.

What is Hazing, And Where Does it Take Place?

“Hazing” refers to a humiliating act that takes place as a form of initiation into a group. More often than not, the groups that implement hazing are fraternities and sororities. There is not just one form of hazing; however, all hazing practices fall into these three groups:

  • Subtle Hazing– An example of this may be new members will have to remain silent for a specific amount of time.
  • Harassment Hazing– An example of this may be sleep deprivation.
  • Violent Hazing– An example may be the forced consumption of alcohol.

While subtle hazing seems less intense than the other two, harassment hazing and violent hazing can significantly affect the mental and physical well-being of those being hazed.

It may seem as though hazing only takes place on college campuses, but it can occur in almost any environment. It has been historically seen in locker rooms, athletic teams, schools, and even offices. 

How Hazing Leads to Wrongful Death

Wrongful death occurs when an individual or individuals end up causing the death of another person through negligent actions. The most common example of college hazing leading to wrongful death is a form of violent hazing that forces the person being hazed to consume an excess of alcohol. In this situation, wrongful death could include this person dying due to alcohol poisoning or dying because they get into an accident while under the influence. For example, falling off of something, getting into a car accident, and many other similar incidents. In this situation, the fraternities and sororities could be held responsible for any wrongful deaths directly resulting from their hazing practices.

Getting in Touch With A Lawyer

In order to claim wrongful death, a few elements must be proven. You will have to prove that someone has died and that their death was due to negligence on someone else’s part. You must, additionally, prove that the loved ones of the deceased have suffered because of this loss and that someone is handling the deceased’s estate. If your case fits into these criteria, you should contact a wrongful death attorney so that they may begin your claim.

Once you get in contact with a reputable wrongful death attorney, they will begin to collect evidence to support your case. The attorney will have to prove the following:

  • Duty of Care– The attorney will have to bring about evidence that the defendant had responsibility for the deceased.
  • Breach of Duty of Care– The attorney will collect evidence to prove that the defendant did not follow the duty of care.
  • Causation– Finally, the attorney will prove that the actions of the defendant caused the deceased’s death. 

Be sure to hand over the appropriate documents to your attorney as evidence. Some of the documents you should include are the deceased’s death certificate, medical records, police reports, and witness statements. Because proving that hazing directly leads to wrongful death can be tricky, the more evidence on the side of the plaintiff, the higher likelihood that the defendant can be proven liable.

Hazing Lawsuits

Over the years, many wrongful deaths have been caused by hazing. The form of hazing that seems to contribute to many wrongful deaths is the forced consumption of alcohol. 

In one lawsuit, the family of Penn State University student, Timothy Piazza, sued the fraternity Beta Theta Pi for their son’s death. In 2017, Timothy Piazza was the victim of violent hazing initiated by the Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers. They forced Piazza to consume excess amounts of alcohol as a part of a hazing ritual. This hazing led to Piazza falling down the stairs of the fraternity house and suffering from traumatic brain injuries as well as a lacerated spleen. After Piazza’s fall, it took the rest of the brothers a full 12 hours to call for help. At that time, Piazza was still alive but was in terrible condition. He was transported to the hospital and was operated on but sadly died the following day.

In response to this, the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State University has been shut down, and all 28 former members of the fraternity are facing lawsuits from the Piazza family. Beta Theta Pi’s national organization reached a settlement with the Piazza family. Despite the settlement, the Piazza family has retained the ability to move forward with their claims on specific individuals that lead to their son’s wrongful death.

Following this incident, in 2019, Bloomsburg University freshman Justin King suffered a similar wrongful death during a college initiation process. King was made to over-drink at a college party and fell off of a 75-foot embankment to his death. Embankments are stone walls meant to stop flooding. He wasn’t found until the next morning. Upon hearing the news, his mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Kappa Sigma fraternity as well as the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority. Although King’s death was ruled an accident by the coroner, it went against the Timothy Piazza Anti-Hazing Law that was passed soon after the Penn State University student’s death in 2017. In response to King’s death, Bloomsburg University has made promises to restrict Greek life, which, according to the University, was always their intention.

Contact the Eichholz Law Firm

If your loved one suffered wrongful death as a result of hazing, contact the Eichholz Law Firm.

The Eichholz Law Firm helps families take legal action against the negligent party responsible for the death of their loved ones. Our lawyers are dedicated to serving victims and fighting for justice. Call the Eichholz Law Firm today at (855) 551-1019 or fill out an online form for a free consultation.

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