Chad Meredith, a freshman at the University of Miami, died in a fraternity related hazing incident on the University of Miami campus in November 2002. David W. Bianchi from our firm represented Chad’s parents in a lawsuit against the fraternity president and former vice president who were responsible for his death. Following a $14,000,000 jury verdict for Chad’s parents, the Meredith family wanted to use their son’s death as an opportunity to stop hazing from occurring in the future.
They asked our firm to do all we could to help.
Shortly after the verdict was returned, we learned that Rep. Adam Hasner (R. Delray) was working on legislation that would make hazing that results in death or serious personal injury a 3 rd degree felony punishable by up to five years in jail. Mr. Bianchi offered to help draft the law to incorporate what was learned in the Meredith trial and Rep. Hasner welcomed his assistance.
The defendants in the Meredith trial argued to the jury they should not be found liable because:
- Chad supposedly consented to participate in the swimming event that led to his death;
- The late night swimming was not a fraternity “sponsored” event; and
- Participating in the swim was not a condition of membership in the fraternity.
Although the jury rejected these defenses, it was clear those charged with violating new anti-hazing laws in the future would try to raise similar defenses. This was explained to Rep. Hasner. He agreed these loopholes needed to be closed. As a result, the proposed legislation was amended to specifically state that none of these arguments would be a defense to a charge of violating the new law.
Rep. Hasner’s bill, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Campbell (D. Ft. Lauderdale) in the Florida Senate, was amended in committee to be called the “Chad Meredith Act” in Chad’s honor. Following passage by the House and Senate, Governor Bush signed the bill into law at the University of Miami where Chad died. Chad’s parents, brother, sister, nephews, nieces and aunt traveled to attend. The Chad Meredith law is now in effect in Florida and is one of the toughest anti-hazing laws in the country.
“Chad would be very proud of this,” said Mr. Meredith. “He was always helping people when he was alive and with this law he can help save others from having to go through the same thing. We know he is watching and this is a great way to remember him.”
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