Fraternity & Sorority Related Injuries: Who’s Liable?

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Tragedy recently struck on the West Virginia University (WVU) campus at the Sigma Nu fraternity house when a student sustained serious injuries after falling two-stories. Unfortunately, fraternity related injuries and deaths are all too common, and that is especially true on the WVU campus. An investigation into the latest severe injury is continuing.

William Tiano of Tiano O’Dell, a West Virginia personal injury firm, has extensive experience and knowledge in Greek life personal injury and wrongful death cases. Tiano is currently a part of the team representing David A. Rusko, father of a WVU student who fell down the stairs at a West Virginia University fraternity party and is now permanently brain-damaged. Rusko is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for his son’s injuries.

While individual fraternity and sorority members, as well as the fraternities and sororities that they belong to, are consistently named in Greek life personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, you may be surprised to learn that the universities that host these organizations can also be held liable under some circumstances.

We sat down with Tiano to discuss the various legal theories under which universities can be held accountable in Greek life injury cases:

Why do these injuries occur? Fraternities are supposed to be about fostering brotherhood and community service, but the stereotypical image of fraternities is of binge drinking, hazing and wild parties. College is supposed to be about education and when the local and national chapters of the fraternity and the college don’t do enough to stop these dangerous behaviors, people can be seriously hurt, die or be sexually assaulted.

Who can be held accountable when injuries and deaths occur at fraternities?  When colleges accept students, they assume responsibility for the safety of its students, and the colleges must make and enforce reasonable social policies for the fraternities it allows on campus. Local or national fraternity chapters owe a duty to make sure that fraternities live up to their stated purposes and do not engage in dangerous behaviors like underage drinking, hazing, and drug use. The owner of the fraternity house may have responsibility for unsafe conditions on the property. Of course, individual members of the fraternity can be held accountable if they haze or engage in other dangerous conduct and someone gets hurt.

Is it important to hire a lawyer who has handled these types of cases? Yes, it is very important that every theory of liability that can be used is in fact considered and used if possible. There are lots of places to look for information to hold those responsible accountable, and it is important to have lawyers that know where to start and where to look. Tiano O’Dell has filed fraternity related cases that have gotten national media attention. Our firm has retained some of the best experts in the country to help us navigate these cases and that is very important to do to make sure juries understand why these injuries occur and how they can prevent them with the appropriate action.

Contact a Tiano O’Dell Attorney

Need legal advice about filing a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death claim in West Virginia? If so, the experienced personal injury lawyers of Tiano O’Dell are here to help. One of our knowledgeable attorneys would be happy to review the facts of your case during a free initial consultation and provide you with their assessment of your legal options. Tell us about your case or contact our office today at (304) 720-6700.