Grim stories about fraternity and sorority hazing incidents continue to appear in the news. Sadly, some students suffer severe physical injuries and psychological trauma suffering from hazing. These incidents could even result in a student’s death, as in 2018 when an Ohio University student lost his life. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Ohio enacted a new law to address hazing on its campuses.
The criminal element of hazing
The changes to Ohio law took place after a student died when fraternity members allegedly forced a pledge to consume a toxic mix of alcohol and drugs. The student died from nitrous oxide-induced asphyxia.
Afterward, Ohio legislation went into effect establishing that hazing violations are second-degree misdemeanors. When hazing involves the forced consumption of alcohol or drugs and the victim suffers harm, the crime becomes a third-degree felony.
Criminal statutes are separate from civil ones. If someone dies after a hazing incident, survivors could file a wrongful death suit against the responsible parties. The family of the Ohio student filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the fraternity and 10 individuals. The unfortunate incident also resulted in criminal charges filed against some involved.
Seeking a civil remedy for wrongful deaths
When someone’s negligence caused another person’s passing, a wrongful death lawsuit provides a way for surviving family members to seek punitive damages. The plaintiff may seek to cover financial losses after someone dies. If the decedent was a provider for the family, compensation might be necessary for the family to survive monetary troubles.
Hazing fatalities reflect one type of wrongful death scenario. Medical malpractice and auto collisions are just two of many others. In a situation where negligence causes a fatality, a wrongful death suit might be appropriate.