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HAZING RESULTING IN PERSONAL INJURY: WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

It was only a few short years ago that a controversy involving hazing on college campuses hit home in Connecticut. In 2014, several Greek organizations were suspended for incidents involving hazing. The sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, was barred until May of 2018 for activities that led to the hospitalization of one of its members after she was forced to consume dangerous levels of alcohol. The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity also received a five-year suspension after an investigation into that same incident revealed other hazing activities were being perpetrated by its members. More recently, another investigation was launched when a former member of the UCONN women's hockey team came forward to report hazing and bullying against her by her teammates and coach.

Unfortunately, hazing incidents happen all over the country to men and women in colleges and high schools alike. Some of the incidents and allegations vary in severity, from the mishaps perpetrated by clueless but generally not malicious kids to the horrific and fatal actions of young adults who should know better. It can be difficult to navigate the realm of legal action when hazing incidents occur and result in personal injury.

How is "Hazing" Defined by the State of Connecticut?

To gain a better understanding of hazing and some of the legal ramifications, it is necessary to examine how the state defines hazing. Under Title 53, Chapter 939, Sect. 53-23a, hazing is defined as:

  • Any action which recklessly or intentionally endangers the health or safety of a person for the purpose of initiation, admission with, or as a condition for continued membership in a student organization.

Some of the actions that are included in this definition are:

  • Requiring indecent exposure of the body
  • Requiring any activity that would subject the person to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation or extended isolation from social contact
  • Confinement of the person to unreasonably small, unventilated, unsanitary, or unlighted areas
  • Any assault upon the person
  • Requiring the ingestion of any substance or any other physical activity which could adversely affect the health or safety of the individual (not including sponsored activities such as athletic practice, conditioning, competition, or curricular activity)

What Should You Do If You Have Sustained an Injury as a Result of Hazing?

If you or a loved one have received injuries as a result of a hazing incident, there are a couple paths you can take.

  • Sue the person(s) responsible: Depending on the circumstances of the injury, more than one legal theory may apply and ascertain liability.
    • Negligence: Negligence occurs when someone fails to take action to prevent injury or death, such as failing to intervene in a dangerous hazing incident.
    • Intentional Torts: Intentional torts include such actions as battery, assault, imprisonment, and the infliction of of emotional distress.
  • Sue the school or organization
    • There is a possibility that you have a case against the institute or organization responsible for overseeing the person(s) who perpetrated the hazing. But keep in mind that universities are government entities and that special rules apply.

If you or a family member have been the victim of a dangerous and harmful hazing incident that resulted in personal injury, it can be challenging to try and navigate the legal world alone. Contact Cummings Law Firm today; we can answer all of your questions and be there for you as you move forward.

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