Yost v. Wabash, et al.; Hazing suit weighs college, fraternity liability

The Greek community works diligently to eliminate hazing; these efforts are laudable and effective.  However, the plaintiff’s bar has consistently tried to use these anti-hazing efforts as the linchpin to an argument that by enacting these very same anti-hazing efforts, the national organization has somehow become a guarantor of every individual’s well-being.  That is not reasonable, or fair when considered.

In Yost v. Wabash, the Court recognized this fundamental tension, stating “ we recognize the untenable situation that can be created when colleges and fraternities attempt to deal with potentially dangerous activities by promulgating rules, only to have the enactment and enforcement of those rules thrown back at them as an assumption of duty.”  (p.36).  This is an absolutely correct analysis.  The idea that a national fraternity assumes a duty of care to each of its members by virtue of prohibiting dangerous conduct cannot be the rule of law.  I find it refreshing that this Court agreed.

The opinion also contains an analysis of the Indiana hazing statute.  The discussion of hazing itself and whether the activity in this case (forcibly taking pledge into shower) legally constituted hazing turned on an interpretation of the Indiana hazing statute.   In this case, the statute requires that the activity be forced upon the victim as a condition of membership.  This is not required in other states.  Based upon this statutory definition, and the developed facts, the showering activity was simply not imposed as a condition of membership.

Click here for an article from the Indiana Lawyer analyzing the case.

© 2018 Fraternal Law Partners. All rights reserved. A Division of Manley Burke