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Ex-Clemson Soccer Player Sues Over Hazing, Brain Injury

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

A former player for Clemson's women's soccer team has filed a lawsuit against the team's coaches and 14 members of the team, among others, claiming that she suffered a permanent brain injury during a hazing ritual.

Haley Ellen Hunt's lawsuit, filed last month in a South Carolina court, claims that as a freshman in 2011, she and other freshmen players were forced to perform "humiliating and demeaning acts" by other players, reports the New York Daily News.

How does Hunt allege the hazing caused her to suffer what ended up being a career-ending head injury?

Lawsuit Claims Hazing was 'Longstanding Tradition'

According to Hunt's lawsuit, upperclassmen players on Clemson's women's soccer team initiated freshmen players in a yearly hazing ritual that coaches school administrators were aware was a "longstanding tradition." The upperclassmen players met with coaches to plan a hazing ritual for the new players, which included blindfolding the freshmen, forcing them into the trunks of cars, and driving them around before forcing them to participate in humiliating acts.

Among the acts Hunt alleges she was ordered to perform was being blindfolded and spun around in circles in a dark room. She was then ordered to sprint down the field. Disoriented, but commanded to run faster, Hunt says she sprinted face-first into a brick wall. According to Hunt, she suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the collision, leading to decreased cognitive function, permanent vision damage, and other injuries which she claims prevents her from continuing to play sports or "enjoy many activities of daily life."

Lawsuit Alleges Negligence

Among the dozen causes of action in her lawsuit -- including assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress -- Hunt alleges negligence against the Clemson coaches for knowingly permitting and assisting the players in carrying out the hazing.

Negligence typically requires that an injured person show that their injuries were the result of another's breach of his or her duty to act reasonably under the circumstances. In Hunt's case, she claims that the coaching staff had a duty to prevent Hunt from being subjected to the dangerous hazing ritual, but instead encouraged and supervised it, then subsequently attempted to cover it up.

Clemson University -- which wasn't named as a defendant in the lawsuit -- said in a statement reported by The Greenville News that the school "strongly disagrees with the characterization of events in this lawsuit, and looks forward to vigorously defending this case on its facts, rather than these allegations."

It should be noted that the alleged hazing incident happened August 18, 2011, and Hunt's lawsuit was filed August 15, 2014. That's just three days shy of South Carolina's three-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits.

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