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Harassment Hazing Lawyers

Hazing Law Firm Protecting the Dignity of Students

In 2016, Ryan Abele was forced to get up at 5:45 AM by his 'brothers' in Sigma Nu.

They had all been drinking the night before, and Ryan himself was still drunk. As he was rushed out the door, his 'brothers' yelled at and berated him, urging him down the stairs. As a result, he slipped and damaged a major artery in his brain. He died a few days later. Harassment hazing is an umbrella term for any hazing that threatens the physical, emotional, or psychological health of its victims. Harassment includes demands that threaten, verbally abuse, or humiliate initiates; deprive them of sleep; or force them to fulfill acts of service not required of senior group members.

Why Harassment Hazing Is Dangerous

Verbal abuse, humiliation, and sleep deprivation are all ways of breaking people down. It conditions them for being remade into a member of the "group," whether it's a fraternity, football team, or a military unit. It's effective—but it's designed to develop compliance and elicit obedience. In the wrong hands, it's horrifying. Even fatal.

Psychological warfare is not a toy—it's not a responsible use of one's power or seniority, and it has no place on our campuses. When young men and women experience sexual assault, serious injury, or death, it's time to understand that these activities are not harmless fun or traditions worthy of any school-sanctioned organization.

Florida Lawmakers Pass Andrew's Law to Protect Students

In April 2019, the Florida Legislature unanimously passed new hazing measures drafted by Attorney David Bianchi. The bill was signed by Governor DeSantis in June 2019. The new law, titled "Andrew's Law" by legislators, is named for Andrew Coffey, an FSU student who was killed by hazing in November 2017. In a Pi Kappa Phi tradition called "the family bottle," Andrew was handed a full bottle of bourbon and told to drink it all himself. He later succumbed to alcohol poisoning, but not before other fraternity members delayed calling an ambulance for 11 minutes so they could text each other first.

The circumstances of his death, particularly the fraternity's decision to delay calling for aid out of self-interest, led to the measures in Andrew's Law.

Andrew's Law makes necessary changes to the current hazing statute, including:

  • Allows prosecution of hazing event recruiters and coordinators, even if they don't attend
  • Grants immunity under the hazing statute to the first one to call 911 or administer aid to a hazing victim
  • Only grants immunity if the person in question cooperates with investigators
  • Makes "hazing causing permanent damage" a criminal offense

These measures were also partly inspired by Nicholas Mauricio, an FSU student who was a victim of violent hazing less than a year after Andrew's death. Nicholas suffered permanent brain damage after being subjected to a fraternity tradition called "Scumbag of the Week." Fraternity members responded to police questioning in a manner that suggested to the grand jury that they were reciting from a script.

Mr. Bianchi represented the parents of Andrew Coffey and Nicholas Mauricio in civil suits against the fraternities and over a dozen other defendants. He hopes Andrew's Law will prevent further hazing violence and fatalities while encouraging bystanders to call for aid as quickly as possible.

Parents of Hazing Victim Arm Students with Information About Harassment

Harassment hazing is a form of psychological conditioning, which is what many students don't understand. To help, Tom and Sandra Coffey created a pamphlet to educate students on the link between harassment hazing and physically dangerous forms of hazing. "Hazed," an anti-hazing pamphlet filled with the stories of hazing victims and information about identifying hazing, is part of their effort to arm students with information that might have saved their son Andrew. Since his death, the Coffey family have devoted themselves to ensuring that what happened to Andrew never happens to anyone else.

Read the pamphlet here.

Harassment Hazing Law Firm Helping Victims Nationwide

Last decade, our firm struck at the core of dysfunctional, abusive fraternities with the verdict for the death of Chad Meredith. It is still the largest hazing verdict ever handed down by a jury in a hazing case. In honor of his memory, Attorney David Bianchi helped draft the Chad Meredith Act—the law that made hazing a felony in Florida. Our firm was also instrumental in getting justice against those who killed Andrew Coffey, another young man destroyed by hazing. Now our mission is to take our anti-hazing law to the federal level, bringing an end to soft hazing penalties nationwide.

When families are robbed of their loved ones by harmful 'leaders' engaging in ritualized abuse, our firm is the one they turn to. If your child was harmed or killed by harassment hazing, contact our hazing injury attorneys to review your case. We won't let your loss go unanswered.

Harassment Hazing FAQ

What Is Andrew’s Law?

Andrew’s law was passed in 2019 and is named after Andrew Coffey, an FSU student killed because of the callous hazing practices of a fraternity. It makes “hazing causing permanent damage” a crime. The law allows a person who planned a hazing event to be persecuted after an injury or death caused by it, even if they weren’t there. It also encourages people to assist hazing victims by granting immunity to those who call 911 or administer aid to someone who needs it. However, a person will only receive immunity if they also cooperate with investigators.

Who Is at Fault for a Hazing Injury or Death?

It depends on the situation. At fault parties can include the people who planned the hazing, carried out the hazing, or were present when the hazing occurred. Additionally, organizations such as a school or fraternity can be liable for allowing the dangerous even to take place.

Is Hazing Illegal?

Hazing is illegal when is places people at risk of injury or death. Additionally, hazing is sometimes considered harassment because of the intense social pressure it places on individuals to humiliate themselves for the acceptance of a fraternity’s members.

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