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What are the Legal Consequences of Hazing and Alcohol Poisoning in Fraternities and Sororities?

By David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network

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In colleges throughout Illinois and other States, there are college and university campuses that have fraternities and sororities. For over 100 years, there have been fraternities and sororities in place at many universities and colleges. These organizations, for the most part, serve a great purpose and function in and around college and university campuses.

For sports to community service to academics, fraternities and sororities often times improve the college experience and the goals and mission of the academic institution. Unfortunately, hazing is still a part of fraternity and sorority activities on some college campuses. Some support “hazing” incidents as forms of tradition. Others, including child and student advocates like myself, are staunchly against any form of hazing activities. While some may see some hazing acts as harmless pranks, harassment is harassment whether a personal injury results from the hazing incident or not. Hazing involving the forced or required consumption of alcohol can be extremely dangerous to young college students. At times, serious injuries and even death result from hazing activities. One such incident was reported at North Illinois University where a freshman student died as a result of alcohol poisoning.

Following the death of this North Illinois University student, Dekalb police issued arrest warrants for a number of the fraternity members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Tragically, David Bogenberger was just 19 years old at the time of his death. According to the Medical Examiner’s office, Bogenberger’s blood alcohol level was 5 times the legal limit. You can read more about this incident at Criminal Charges – Hazing Death – North Illinois University.

There are a three types of cases that may result from an incident of hazing at a college campus or university. These include the following:

Criminal Case. Depending on the facts and circumstances, a criminal case may be filed against the students or others involving in the acts of hazing. In many instances, more than one fraternity brother or sorority sister is involved in the acts of hazing. If there is a hazing law in place, charges can be based on the hazing statutes or laws. Other charges may be involve statutes or laws related to assault, battery, recklessness, manslaughter, and violation of alcohol laws. Criminal cases are prosecuted through the State Attorney or District Attorney office.

Administrative Case. The college or university may initiate or pursue a case against the fraternity or sorority itself. This may involve the suspension of the fraternity or sorority and other sanctions against the organization. Individual students may also face sanctions like probation and / or suspension from school.

Civil Case. An action may be pursued against the individuals involved in the incident, the fraternity or sorority involved in the incident, and possibly others depending on the facts and circumstances. A civil case is a separate action that is not dependent on the findings or actions of the criminal case or the administrative case. Typically, there are four elements that need to be proved to establish a civil case involving hazing related injuries: 1. Duty; 2 .Breach of Duty; 3. Causation; and 4. Damages.

Hazing related cases can be quite complicated because they involve a number of different issues and statutes. Because of this, it is often helpful for the hazing victim or his or her family to retain the services of a Personal Injury Lawyer for advice, consultation, and legal representation.