Injury In Idaho

The Tidal Wave of Fraternity Lawsuits

A recent article in The Atlantic magazine described a growth industry in lawsuits being filed against college fraternities, seeking money damages for injuries sustained by fraternity members or their guests.  Since 2005, more than 60 people, mostly students, have died in fraternity related incidents.Here are some examples of cases brought against fraternities:

Case No. 1 —  The Plaintiff sued for his injuries after falling off a fraternity’s deck and becoming wedged between the deck and an A/C unit. Prior to his fall, the Plaintiff reportedly attempted to use his cellphone to film another student shooting a bottle rocket out of his rectum.  Instead of soaring into the air, the bottle rocket exploded in the student’s rectum. The Plaintiff was so startled he tumbled off the deck.

Case No. 2 — Eighty-six former members of a Yale fraternity have been served with a multi-million-dollar lawsuit after a chapter member driving a U-Haul truck loaded with beer struck three people, killing one, at a football tailgate in 2011.  The driver of the U-Haul, a former student and fraternity member, has been charged with negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.

Case No. 3 — A former Virginia State University student who was injured and hospitalized in a fraternity hazing initiation more than three years ago has filed a $1.7 million lawsuit against Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and its local chapter on the VSU campus.   The plaintiff said he endured numerous acts of hazing while undergoing the pledging process in 2008 and 2009, including being forced to eat “unknown materials” that made him vomit and having hot sauce poured on his genitals, according to the lawsuit.  The lawsuit alleges that the Plaintiff was beaten, demeaned, humiliated and suffered severe emotional stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder, for which he required extensive medical treatment. He lost nearly 50 pounds, was forced to leave the university and suffered flashbacks to the hazing acts, the complaint says.

Case No. 4 –A Wesleyan University student who says she was raped in front of onlookers at a “wildly out of control” campus fraternity party has filed a lawsuit against Xi Chapter of Psi Upsilon, 11 of its members and the alleged assailant.  The Plaintiff, then a freshman, said she was raped by another student at the Xi Chapter of Psi Upsilon fraternity house in Middletown, Connecticut, at a pledge “strip show.”

At least one national law firm is now specializing in school and fraternity hazing lawsuits.   In some cases, both the fraternity and the college or university are named as Defendants in the lawsuit.   According to the article in The Atlantic,

[blockquote author=””] Far from being freakish and unpredictable events, fatal and near-fatal falls from fraternity-house roofs, balconies, windows, and sleeping porches are fairly regular occurrences across the country. [/blockquote]

I don’t know how many of these lawsuits are meritorious, but the fact scenarios alleged in these cases should at least cause parents to be concerned about the dangers their sons and daughters might face in college – a place normally associated with the tranquil pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.

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