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January 16th, 2018

Pennsylvania Schools & Colleges – Civil Liability for Hazing by Students

Liable Parties – Schools, Colleges and Other Entities

Civil lawsuits can be filed for both physical and mental injuries sustained by pledges or members during hazing events. Depending on the facts of a given case, the school itself, in addition to other entities may be liable, such as Greek organizations (fraternities or sororities), hosting venues and alcohol establishments like bars, restaurants, etc. An alcohol establishment may be liable for allowing underage drinking or serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons. Hosting venues may be liable for renting space to groups or organizations that perform hazing activities at the rented space.

With respect to liability of schools or colleges, Pennsylvania law allows lawsuits for hazing that occurs in school sports organizations and student group organizations such as bands, social groups, etc. For more info, visit our college injury law page.

The Key in Liability Cases for Hazing Injuries at Schools & Colleges in PA

Shots of alcoholThe key in hazing injury lawsuits is proving that the defendants had prior knowledge (or at least, should have known) of the hazing events and failed to take appropriate action to prevent the incidents. For instance, a hosting venue that continues to rent space to a particular student group, despite knowing that students engaged in dangerous acts of hazing, may be liable.

Similarly, a school or college may be liable for failing to adopt specific policies to prevent hazing. Pennsylvania’s Education Code was amended recently to mandate that private and public schools (7th-12th grade) adopt anti-hazing policies. In 2016, the Pennsylvania legislature amended Pennsylvania’s anti-hazing law. One of the new laws requires secondary schools in PA to adopt written anti-hazing policies and to provide these policies to all athletic coaches. Click here for more on PA’s Antihazing Law (full statutes are provided).

Although the law doesn’t specifically provide a legal cause of action for a hazing injury lawsuit, it provides a baseline of required behavior. A school could be held liable for failing to follow these new laws, if that failure led to a hazing event and resulting injury. For example, a private high school fails to adopt anti-hazing procedures in accordance with the new law. The sports team, which is known for hazing new members, engages in hazing activity and a new member is seriously injured. The school may be liable for negligence, i.e., failing to follow the Education Code’s requirement.

Caveat: Liability Limited to On-Campus Events or School-Sanctioned Activities

In general, liability in a hazing case will be limited to on-campus events or school-sanctioned activities. Pennsylvania law would not apply to a group of students engaging in hazing behavior at a private apartment, such as a party. The key is whether the school was involved in an official manner. Therefore, schools and colleges could be liable for on-campus events or off-campus events that were sanctioned by the school or otherwise approved by the school.

Pennsylvania College Injury Lawyers – We Handle Hazing Injury Lawsuits

Our crime victim injury lawyers file civil lawsuits for hazing injuries and deaths at colleges, middle schools and high schools. Our team of lawyers is comprised of former prosecutors with unique knowledge of the interplay between a criminal case and a civil lawsuit. Contact our firm for a FREE CONSULTATION. (866) 641-0806

DISCLAIMER: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. It is crucial to speak to a qualified lawyer prior to making any decision about your case. Read full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.