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Who Pays Damages Caused by Hazing?

January 16, 2023 / Conversations Digital

Hazing is incredibly common throughout the United States, even though it is proven to be harmful and even dangerous. 

In Ohio, hazing is illegal. Those who suffer damages or losses as a result of illegal hazing can pursue civil claims for their damages. One of the most important things to remember when considering filing a hazing lawsuit, however, is that they can be highly complex, and using dedicated legal representation can be the difference between a successful claim and one that is quickly dismissed.At Cooper Elliott, we have been serving the legal needs of the greater Columbus, Ohio region for years. The attorneys on our team have decades of experience in taking on and winning some of the most complicated and difficult cases Ohio courts have seen – including recent hazing cases.

What Is Considered Hazing in Ohio?

The Ohio Revised Code states that hazing is defined as: 

“any act or coercing another, including the victim, to do any act of initiation into any student or other organization that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person.”

This may sound complicated, but in reality, hazing is simple. 

Hazing is common in student organizations like fraternities, sororities, or other student organizations where established members have “initiations” or other ritual activities intended to have new applicants “prove” they’re ready for full admittance. These acts can be relatively mild, but they can also be incredibly dangerous and even sometimes violent. 

Ohio’s civil anti-hazing statute, R.C. 2307.44, lays out who can be liable civilly for hazing.  

The list includes officers and directors of local and national organizations, members who participated in the hazing, and even the Universities where the hazing took place. 

Additionally, unlike other types of cases, Ohio’s anti-hazing statute makes it clear that the victim’s conduct does not reduce the defendants’ responsibility: 

“The negligence or consent of the plaintiff or any assumption of the risk by the plaintiff is not a defense to an action brought pursuant to this section.”

Who Pays Damages Caused by Hazing?

The parties that are required to pay damages for hazing lawsuits are those that are deemed legally liable. 

Depending on the circumstances, the individual students responsible for the hazing damages can be held liable, as well as the organization they belong to. Since the hazing often occurs as part of an “initiation” or “commitment” ritual required for admittance to the organization, there can be multiple liable parties.

This is one reason why creating a strong claim for hazing damages can be challenging for the average person and why working with an experienced hazing attorney can help strengthen the grounds on which the lawsuit is filed.

Potential Penalties for Hazing

Hazing is regarded as a fourth-degree misdemeanor under Ohio law. The penalties can become more severe if the victim is coerced or forced into the consumption of drugs or alcohol.  In that scenario, hazing is a felony offense.

Criminal convictions for hazing can result in significant jail time, as well as significant fines.

In addition to criminal penalties, the victim or their estate will also be able to bring a civil action against various parties for injuries, damages, or losses that result from the hazing incident.

Contact Cooper Elliott Today to Discuss Your Hazing Lawsuit

Contact Cooper Elliott today to discuss your case details in confidence with a member of our team. While money may not be able to undo the psychological and physical harm that your hazing incident caused, we will do everything in our power to help you fight for justice and the resources to make your journey to recovery smoother and more effective.

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