Violent Hazing Attorneys
Hazing Lawyers Fighting for the Injured & Traumatized
At its darkest, hazing rituals allow senior fraternity members, varsity players, or higher-ranked officers to inflict physical harm. If we that include the threat of physical harm, virtually all hazing is violent. Violence includes forced consumption of alcohol or drugs, beating or paddling initiates, subjecting new or prospective members to public nudity, demanding the performance of illegal or dangerous acts, or demanding anything that would compromise a person's dignity.
Violent hazing often holds the potential for sexual assault. Last year, a football team in a small town in Texas was found to have been forcibly committing sexual acts (using instruments) against new varsity players in a sick, ritualized form of sex abuse. Many of these victims didn't come forward to corroborate the accounts, but witnesses did report that the assault had been occurring. Thirteen students were arrested for the sexual assault of nine players from 2015 to 2017.
Florida Legislature Passes Hazing Law from David Bianchi
In April 2019, both chambers of the Florida legislature passed Andrew's Law, a series of amendments to the hazing statute drafted by Attorney David Bianchi. The law makes it possible for the state to prosecute planners and recruiters for events where people are harmed by hazing, even if those coordinators don't attend. Holding fraternity leadership and facilitators accountable will allow prosecutors to strike at the heart of hazing culture. Andrew's Law also provides immunity under the hazing statute to the first person who calls 911 or administers aid to a hazing victim. This immunity only continues provided they cooperate with investigators. By giving an incentive to call emergency services and cooperate with law enforcement, the law would save lives while helping police find wrongdoers more quickly. The bill has been sent to the governor to be signed.
The law was named for Andrew Coffey, whose hazing death led to the measures in Mr. Bianchi's bill. In November 2017, Andrew was subjected to a Pi Kappa Phi tradition called "the family bottle." Andrew was handed a full bottle of hard liquor and told to drink the whole thing alone. Andrew later passed out from alcohol poisoning and died while surrounded by fraternity members. When they discovered him, his 'brothers' texted each other for 11 minutes before anyone called an ambulance.
Andrew's Law is also inspired in part by the story of Nicholas Mauricio, an FSU student who suffered permanent brain damage in a fraternity tradition called "Scumbag of the Week." When the fraternity members were questioned about what happened, their responses led a grand jury to believe that their responses were scripted. The violent hazing Nicholas experienced is more typical than we know, but they're rarely reported. Andrew's Law was also designed to cut through the culture of secrecy that keeps fraternity leadership from being held accountable.
The Importance of Civil Hazing Litigation
In Florida, hazing that results in serious harm or death is a felony. However, criminal litigation recognizes an individual's part in ritualized abuse and coercion only. Civil litigation allows victims and survivors to hold organizations accountable—forcing sports associations, fraternities, and school administrations to face the results of their negligence. When our fraternity hazing lawyers held Kappa Sigma accountable for the death of Chad Meredith, they were banned from campus for four years, enough time to ensure no member of the fraternity was left remaining at the school when they returned.
But those students weren't the only issue. The issue is an entire culture, a decades-long tradition that has normalized the use of violence to inflict harm on pledges.
Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain secured the largest hazing verdict in history. We hold fraternities and sports organizations accountable for the harm suffered in the name of 'tradition' and 'team-building.' If you were harmed by violent hazing, reach out to our hazing injury and death attorneys to hold the wrongdoers accountable.
Dial (305) 770-6335 or contact us online today for a free consultation.