University of Tennessee student Alexander Broughton, 20, was hospitalized after he used one of the free alcoholic enemas passed out by the Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He was dropped off in an unresponsive state at a hospital due to alcohol poisoning. The case could present a rather unique tort action and, in the meantime, the entire fraternity has been wisely suspended over the incident.
Several members of the frat reportedly handed out rubber tubing for members to give each other alcoholic enemas that increases and speeds up the effect of alcohol. Having a friend deliver alcohol anally appears preferable to waiting a bit longer for a buzz with the Phi Kappa Alpha members. Police are looking into the possibility of a hazing connection.
A lawsuit by the student would face obvious difficulties from a plaintiffs’ conduct standpoint. Anyone stupid enough to try one of these things is not likely to generate much sympathy with the jury. Issues of contributory negligence and assumption of the risk abound. Of course, if this is part of a hazing system, it is possible to maintain an action. We have seen such lawsuits in the past. For example, the parents of Chad Meredith, 18, received a $14,000,000 judgment after the Miami college student and baseball star was induced to drinking heavily as a pledge and then encouraged to jump in a cold lake to swim across with other members of the fraternity. While he cried for help, no one came to his aid.
Likewise, the parents of State University of New York College student Walter Dean Jennings III received a $1.5-million award in a wrongful-death lawsuit against a frat leader after Jennings was forced to drink huge amounts of water and alcohol as a member of the Psi Epsilon Chi fraternity. He was forced to consume drinks that members urinated in and was forced to continue to consume water and alcohol until he vomited. He was also kept in a small room at high temperature while doing exercises. The family was awarded $400,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 for wrongful death and another $1-million in punitive damages for “arrogant and uncivilized” conduct.
These actions are stronger when they involve pledges but can be brought on behalf of members who feel pressured to endure degrading and dangerous treatment. Some states have also passed new criminal laws dealing with frat deaths and injuries. Florida passed its law after the Meredith case.