Local fraternity potentially liable for personal injuries from hazing but not national fraternity or university

In today’s decision, the Indiana Supreme Court addressed several questions relating to duty and the safety of college students. The analysis can be broken down as follows:

  1. Wabash College: Wabash College was not liable under a premises liability theory since its tenant, the local fraternity, maintained exclusive control and possession of the premises where the injury occurred. The school’s promulgation of a policy against hazing was insufficient to create an assumed duty as it “did not extend to direct oversight and control of the behavior of individual student members of the local fraternity.” In other words, it discouraged hazing and offered educational outreach but did not police it in such a way that it failed in its undertaking to protect Yost. Finally, the local fraternity was not the agent of Wabash since “mere consent to governance does not equate to agency.”
  2. National Fraternity: the  Fraternity similarly lacked liability on the theories of assumed duty and agency and the reasoning mirrored that which was applied to Wabash.
  3. Local Fraternity: the local fraternity did bear liability because there were sufficient facts to show that the fraternity may have assumed a duty of care of Yost in that it may have assumed supervisory services upon which Yost relied.

www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/02131401bd.pdf.

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About Matt Anderson

I am civil trial attorney in South Bend, Indiana and have practiced on both sides of insurance and personal injury law in Illinois and Indiana for the better part of ten years. I created this blog as a way for other Indiana civil litigation and trial attorneys to get meaningful updates on cases ad issues that affect their practice. (I'll admit that there is some self-interest involved since it's also a handy way to summarize and file my own research.)

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