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New Jersey family files lawsuit over hazing death

A New Jersey teenager’s family plans to file a wrongful death claim against Penn State University and Beta Theta Pi fraternity over the hazing death of their son. Eighteen fraternity members are already facing criminal charges as a result of the death.

Hazing rituals used to be a commonly accepted rite of passage among fraternity members, but deaths among students at different campuses across the nation have caused most universities and colleges to crack down on the initiation rites.

Their efforts aren’t always successful. Officials complain that fraternities often meet on private property and carry out the hazing rituals behind closed doors where universities can’t intervene. Others say that universities like Penn State know that the hazing is happening and openly ignore it either in the name of tradition or because they don’t want to anger donors — many of whom are fraternity members themselves.

Whatever the reason, hazing still goes on and it’s largely ignored — until someone dies. In this case, the fraternity pledges were fed copious amounts of alcohol — enough to make them sick or even induce alcohol poisoning. The young man who ultimately died was so drunk that he toppled forward down a set of basement stairs.

Instead of getting him medical attention, fraternity members laid him on a couch, slapped him in the face to try to wake him up and poured water on him. He was left alone on the couch, eventually falling to the floor — where other members of the fraternity were filmed on the house’s security cameras walking over him.

By the time anyone sobered up enough to realize that he had been seriously injured and wasn’t just passed out from the alcohol, it was too late — he’d died.

The basis of a wrongful death lawsuit is ultimately negligence. In this case, the individual fraternity could be liable for not doing more to stop its members from engaging in hazing rituals. The members themselves can be liable for both the hazing itself, feeding alcohol to someone who is underage and not seeking medical care for someone who was injured. The university may be liable if the plaintiffs can prove that it either knew or should have known that hazing rituals were taking place on campus fraternities.

If your loved one dies as a result of someone’s negligence, talk to a personal injury attorney today.

Source: NJ.com, “Family of teen who died at Penn State frat to file wrongful death lawsuit,” Craig Turpin, May 16, 2017

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