A personal injury or wrongful death lawyer in Cleveland, OH, like from Mishkind Kulwicki Law, CO., L.P.A., are sometimes asked about the civil ramifications of hazing. In most states, hazing is a misdemeanor, punishable by fines or jail time. In addition, a civil action can be brought against the perpetrators to recover compensation for physical and emotional harm caused by the hazing. For example, under Ohio law, hazing means the doing of 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. The criminal statute makes it a crime to recklessly participate in the hazing of another, including by direct participants but also by any administrator, employee or faculty member of any primary, secondary or postsecondary school or any other educational institution.
Hazing typically includes verbal abuse, the silent treatment or dangerous activities, like risk-taking stunts or drinking alcohol to excess. While usually associated with college fraternities and sports teams, hazing might occur in any setting. For example, a lawsuit was recently filed against the Albuquerque police department academy alleging harassment, and discrimination, and retaliation against those who raise complaints about the behavior. According to news reports, “a wide-ranging external investigation into more than 2 dozen complaints from cadets and former employees at the police academy found that while almost all of the allegations could not be confirmed or that the conduct did occur but resulted in discipline, the actions of former Cmdr. Angela Byrd took to addressing them as retaliatory and against standard operating procedures.”
In this police academy case, like many claims of hazing, there is little agreement over the circumstances of the hazing. It becomes a “he said, she said” battle of the witnesses. In some cases, videotape of the evidence exists. In many cases however, it is a factual dispute. If there is no physical evidence of injury, such as hospitalization for alcohol intoxication or alcohol poisoning or wrongful death with an investigation by the corner, credible evidence is lacking to support the claim. In other instances, if a police report is made and a police investigation takes place, participants may yield to the authority of the investigating police officer and admit to criminal actions.
As with any personal injury claim or claim involving the intentional infliction of emotional distress or physical harm, it is important for the injury victim to document the occurrence. This can be done by making a police report, filing a complaint with another authority, like school administration, or documenting injuries through a visit to your doctor or an emergency department. Documentation of these claims is critical, particularly when the facts are in dispute.
If you have been the victim of hazing or if your child has experienced hazing that resulted in severe personal injuries or wrongful death, you should contact a personal injury or wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible so that you can learn how to properly document cruel conduct by peers.