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In California, Hazing is Illegal

Now that colleges are back in session and students are pledging sororities and fraternities, parents (and students) need to be aware of the dangers of hazing. But also be alert that hazing is common in sports teams and other groups at both the high school and college level.

Each year there averages over three deaths from the effects of hazing. Over half of these deaths are caused by alcohol intoxication. In some of those cases, there was blood alcohol registering as high as  0.558 at the time of death. For instance, unless a person has developed a very high tolerance for alcohol, a BAC rating of 0.20% represents very serious intoxication. A range of 0.35% to 0.40% usually represents potentially fatal alcohol poisoning. 0.40% is the accepted lethal dose for about 50% of adult humans.

In California, hazing is illegal if it “is likely to cause serious bodily injury to any former, current, or prospective student of any school, community college, college, university, or other educational institution in the state.” Not only is hazing a criminal matter, but there is also a civil remedy.

In Maryland, a recent graduate of Stevenson University filed a $4 million lawsuit against Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, claiming that hazing caused him to be hospitalized for a week. In California, the family of a Cal State University Northridge student, who died in a fraternity hazing incident, is suing the university and fraternity saying they still don’t know what happened a year after their son’s death. A mother of a University of California student, who committed suicide after experiencing hazing, has filed a lawsuit also. Damages requested are in the millions of dollars.

To some people, the damage values may seem excessively high. However, these instances don’t involve some kids whose feelings were hurt or participants who were told to haul a team’s stinky jerseys back from an away game. The lawsuits claim that the tormentors disregarded the boundaries of basic human decency and grossly abused a position of authority or seniority.

Long after the physical injuries heal, hazing and bullying can create lifelong emotional and psychological damage to victims. Depression and thoughts of suicide are common. Self-confidence and self-worth are in doubt.

If you or your child has suffered from severe hazing, it is wise to seek a consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney who can look at the facts in your case, discuss your legal options, identify potential defendants, and decide what actions are best for you and your family. Call us at (714) 759-5461 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys to discuss your case.