Mother files wrongful death suit over hazing death

The mother of a deceased Bethune-Cookman University student has reported filed awrongful death suit against the school and a national fraternity alleged to have been involved in the student’s death during hazing activities last February. According to the woman’s complaint, neither the university nor the fraternity did enough to stop the dangerous activities.

The 19-year-old freshman and several other pledges were apparently intentionally sleep deprived over a three-week period of time, and stayed up all night on the night before the accident studying for a quiz on the history of the Phi My Alpha Sinfonia fraternity. The next morning, they students drove to a fraternity member’s apartment for the test, and the driver fell asleep at the wheel on the way back from the quiz, causing the vehicle to crash into a utility pole in Daytona Beach.

A police investigation after the accident determined that sleep deprivation may have contributed to the crash. The driver’s mother accused the school and the fraternity of negligence in failing to prevent the accident, but attorneys for the university and the fraternity say that no hazing was involved and that the student was not wearing a seat belt, so that the university is wholly or partially exonerated from liability.

In subsequent investigations, neither the university nor the police department found any evidence of hazing, but the mother begs to differ and says that the university has not done enough to respond to enforce its anti-hazing policy.

Wrongful death suits can be emotional to deal with, and certainly cannot bring back a deceased loved one. What they can do is provide a certain measure of compensation to grieving family members and a better sense of closure.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Death of Bethune-Cookman student sparks hazing lawsuit,” Denise-Marie Ordway, May 30, 2013.