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Suing Student Organizations for Hazing Injuries

Suing Student Organizations for Hazing Injuries

Injuries during hazing events are unfortunately common problems on college campuses. Stunts designed to humiliate, traumatize, or injure recruits to fraternities and sororities can lead to severe long-term consequences. Alcohol poisoning, emotional distress, and physical injury are just a few of the common results of hazing practices. Someone who has been injured during a hazing event needn’t accept the injury in silence. Pursuing a lawsuit can not only help the injured student recover compensation for injuries, but also help future students avoid the same misfortune.

Nevada treats hazing as a crime

Under NRS 200.605, hazing is a crime in Nevada. Hazing is defined as “an activity in which a person intentionally or recklessly endangers the physical health of another person for the purpose of initiation into or affiliation with a student organization, academic association or athletic team at a high school, college or university in this state.” Its definition includes any sort of physical brutality and forced consumption of alcohol or other substances. “Forced” here is defined to mean that the victim’s participation was required for his or her participation in the organization.

The law provides an escalating series of penalties depending on the degree of harm suffered by the victim. If the victim did not suffer substantial bodily harm, the hazing is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in prison and a fine. In cases where the victim suffered substantial bodily harm the crime is elevated to a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine. Rather importantly, the statute bars defendants from raising the victim’s consent as a defense.

Bear in mind that NRS 200.605 is a criminal statute, which means that it requires state action against the individuals who perpetrate the crime. In a civil context the definitions of NRS 200.605 can provide helpful guidance for injured plaintiffs. If the defendant is prosecuted and convicted under NRS 200.605, that fact becomes conclusive evidence of the defendant’s liability for the plaintiff’s injuries. NRS 41.133. The question in civil trial then turns to factual questions like how to calculate the plaintiff’s compensation. Even if the defendant has not been charged or convicted, a plaintiff can still recover damages.

Who to sue?

Someone who is injured in a hazing incident may have a cause of action against several potential defendants. The most obvious of these are the individuals who conducted the hazing. But it may also include the organization itself, especially if knew about the hazing rituals and offered tacit or implicit approval of them. In some cases the college or university where the events took place may also share a portion of responsibility. A campus that has received complaints about hazing incidents within an organization but hasn’t taken steps to prevent them may have committed negligence or worse.

One reason hazing can be so pernicious is that it is condoned or even encouraged by adults in positions of authority. If a coach, professor, or other college employee is present at an unlawful hazing event, that can become a significant fact in establishing the institutional nature of the hazing.

Consult with a personal injury law firm

An experienced personal injury law firm can help people who have been injured in a hazing incident recover compensation for their injuries. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. If you or a loved one has been injured in a hazing incident call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.