Fraternity Row

I've read some stories about accidents at frat houses. Who takes responsibility in these cases?

Even if your brotherhood has a good disciplinary record and a solid set of conduct guidelines, accidents will still happen. A simple slip on a wet floor or full-blown fist fight are likely to occur in a house that is full of unsupervised teenagers. There are a number of steps the fraternity can take to cover itself against legal issues that may arise as a result of an unfortunate incident.

After college student housing, the Greek fraternities and sororities are the second highest provider of student accommodation. They are a mainstay of college life and have been around for decades. Some colleges even use their Greek lifestyles as a marketing tool to entice higher enrollment. However, there has been an ongoing struggle between colleges and fraternities for control and, more significantly, responsibility.

Accidents and injuries are on the rise. A slip and fall accident attorney will likely be involved with many of the more common injuries at frat houses, including assault (23%), sexual assault (15%), slip-and-fall (10%), fall from a height (9%), auto-related (7%), and hazing (7%). Hazing has attracted the most media attention lately, and very little of it has been positive.

By its nature, the fraternity lifestyle is aimed at youngsters looking for a four-year whirl with alcohol and drinking accessories before decades working in an office. Colleges are deeply dependent on fraternities, and as such, have limited control over them. They are often backed by powerful alumni and deep-pocketed donors. One in eight students is a part of a fraternity or sorority, which translates into a lot of housing the college does not have to provide. The university is often exempt from providing insurance and building maintenance for Greek organizations, so they can be considered partially independent.

When things go wrong, there is often a moral obligation but not necessarily a legal one. Laws covering frat houses are a grey area and vary from state to state. Colleges warn against fraternity abuses, but have little power to stop them. Liability depends on the case and incident. If a student has an accident and needs to see a medical professional on campus grounds, the college will assume responsibility. If a fraternity has an accident in the house due to underage drinking, liability falls on them instead.

A central fund called the Fraternity Risk Management Trust can hold a substantial sum of money from donations and membership fees to cover incidents and accidents that will inevitably occur in frat house life. The dues that students have to pay to join Greek houses contribute towards these self-managed insurance pools. Problems may arise if underage students are involved, and the fraternity will leave the parents to take responsibility.

One solution is not one that most students, frat house brothers or sorority sisters would welcome. Banning alcohol would reduce accidents and incidents by as much as 80%.

Well, I've never been in a touring rock band, it was all just high school and college, playing toga parties in frat houses - Alessandro Nivola.

(Jacob Maslow is founder and editor of Legal Scoops).

UTA Radio on Facebook

Twitter Feed

UTA News