Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit After A Fraternity Or Sorority Hazing Death
Each year, thousands of students "rush" fraternities and sororities on their college campuses, hoping to be accepted into prestigious Greek Life organizations. A formal rush allows prospective members to visit the organizations and be considered as pledges by current members.
While joining a fraternity or sorority can provide college students with a sense of belonging, a built-in social circle, and important connections, it's not without risk.
Before being welcomed into the Greek fold, pledges are often required to complete a series of strenuous, humiliating, or even dangerous initiation rituals.
In recent years, several college students have died as a result of ill-conceived hazing incidents, leading to suspensions of the offending Greek-letter organizations, as well as a number of wrongful death lawsuits.
When a student dies in a hazing ritual, filing a wrongful death lawsuit can help their surviving family members hold those responsible accountable for their actions. If you lost a loved one to hazing, here's what you need to know.
While 48 percent of students who've been hazed talk about their experiences with their peers, just 26 percent felt comfortable sharing those experiences with their families. As a result, hazing incidents may be more widespread than most people realize.
Consider these concerning statistics from StopHazing.org:
- Three out of every five college students are subjected to hazing.
- Approximately 70 percent of college students in fraternities and sororities have experienced at least one hazing behavior.
- Excessive alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, humiliation, isolation, and sex acts are among the most common hazing practices.
- More than 80 percent of hazing deaths involve alcohol.
- Hazing rituals run the gamut. Twenty-six percent of students hazed were forced to participate in a drinking game; 17 percent had to sing or chant in public; 12 percent were only allowed to associate with certain people; 12 percent were encouraged to drink alcohol to the point of illness or unconsciousness; 11 percent were deprived of sleep; and 10 percent were screamed or cursed at by other fraternity or sorority members.
Hazing in Texas
Hazing is illegal in Texas. State law defines hazing as “any intentional, knowing, or reckless act, occurring on or off the campus of an educational institution...that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in an organization.”
Examples of hazing activities prohibited by Texas law include:
- Electronic shocking
- Placing of a harmful substance on the body
- Sleep deprivation
- Exposure to the elements
- Confinement in a small space
- Activities that subject students to unreasonable risk of harm, or adversely affect mental or physical health or safety
- Activities that intimidate or threaten students with ostracism
- Activities that subject students to extreme mental stress, humiliation, or shame
Understanding Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death lawsuits seek to compensate surviving family members for economic and non-economic losses associated with the untimely loss of a loved one, including:
- Funeral fees
- Burial or cremation expenses
- Loss of income
- Loss of benefits
- Loss of guidance and support
- Loss of consortium
In Texas, the right to file a wrongful death claim is restricted to the decedent's spouse, biological or adopted children, and biological or adoptive parents.
Potentially Liable Parties
One of the first and most important steps to filing a wrongful death lawsuit is determining who to name as the defendant. In hazing wrongful death cases, potentially liable parties can include:
- The college or university
- The fraternity or sorority
- The fraternity or sorority's alumni association
- The individual students involved in the hazing incident
Consult an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
After losing a loved one to hazing, most families want answers—and justice. McGartland Law Firm's award-winning legal team can help your family fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact McGartland Law Firm today to schedule an appointment to discuss the details of your wrongful death case.