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Too Much College Fun: When Can You Sue for Hazing?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on January 28, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

'Boys will be boys' used to be an excuse for bullying, and by the time boys were almost men it was expected that anyone who wanted to join a fraternity would put up with hazing. But today bullying and hazing are -- at least officially -- unacceptable and this could mean trouble for traditional fraternities.

A former Kappa Alpha Psi recruit in Maryland, Johnny Powell II, is suing the fraternity for $4 million, alleging that he was severely beaten and abused during recruiting, NBC News reports. "I shouldn't have to die to be in a fraternity," Powell said. His is not the first fraternity hazing case at all. But all raise the same questions about what is acceptable behavior today.

What Is Too Much?

In 2014, a California student was discovered dead, shoeless, and dehydrated, by a park ranger in a national forest. He was on a hike with his prospective fraternity brothers and fellow pledges, and his family believes he was hazed to death. That was obviously too much.

Powell's recent suit is much less extreme, but that does not necessarily mean what happened to him was okay. His suit alleges that he was physically beaten by fraternity brothers to the point that he had to be hospitalized. Powell also claims that he had to run errands for frat brothers or risk physical punishment and that he was forced to do calisthenics while brothers hit him.

According to Powell's attorney, Jimmy Bell, the beatings were brutal and even took place during meetings that were supposed to be purely informational. Powell supposedly still sees a therapist and suffers back pain as a result of these experiences.

As for physical injury, Bell said of his client Powell, "The doctor told him if he hadn't come to the hospital, he probably would have died from internal bleeding," Bell said."They did a lot of things that are sadistic."

Who to Sue for What?

There are a number of claims that can be made in a hazing case, depending on the details of course. And sometimes there are also several parties to target.

Injury due to hazing might be considered either an intentional tort or negligence. Which claim applies depends on the facts of a case. Plaintiffs in a hazing case can also look beyond the fraternity itself when filing suit. Was the school negligent in any way? Are there other organizations affiliated with the target group who could also be sued?

Talk to a Lawyer

If you or someone you know was injured due to hazing at school or at any other institution, speak to a lawyer immediately. Counsel can assess your case and let you know what claims are appropriate. Many personal injury attorneys consult for free or no fee. Get guidance.

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