Blog : Colorado

Parents Taking Aim to Prevent Hazing

Following the death of Debbie Smith’s son, Matt, the family learned the severity of what happened to him due to hazing. Since then, they have made documentaries, launched a non-profit, and have been working to change laws to prevent hazing. Susan Snyder with ‘The Inquirer’ reports:

“It puts a bigger face on the story,” said Leslie Lanahan, whose son, Gordie Bailey Jr., the captain of his high school football team, died after an alcohol-saturated fraternity event in 2004 at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “I don’t think it has ever gotten the attention it deserves collectively.”

Hazing has been a problem for decades. In a national 2008 study of more than 11,000 college students, 55 percent of those involved in clubs, teams, and organizations said they experienced hazing. Dozens of students have died, including four in 2017.

Click here to access the full article, and click here for more posts on hazing.

 

HAZE: The Gordie Bailey Story

Douglas Fierberg served as lead trial counsel for wrongful death claims against a national fraternity and its members in connection with the hazing death of Gordie Bailey at the University of Colorado.  Gordie was a wonderful young man, excelling in sports and academics, and deeply loved by his parents and sister.  Gordie attended college and made the critical mistake of joining a fraternity that had a longstanding, secret practice of hazing pledges.  The fraternity’s hazing involved compelling pledges to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol during pledge events, including the tradition where a pledge is assigned a “big brother.”  These events are widely referred to by fraternities as the “three deadly nights.”  Though these traditions have resulted in death and serious injuries for decades, fraternities have refused to make meaningful changes that would eliminate these rituals.  Gordie became incapacitated and collapsed in a common area of the fraternity house.  Rather than obtain required medical assistance, the fraternity brothers wrote all over his body with sharpies and, then, left him unattended.  He died as a result.  The national fraternity and members disclaimed any liability for Gordie’s death and, then, argued that his family’s right to a financial recovery was limited by an arbitrary statutory cap on damages.  We prevailed against the defendants on numerous pre-trial motions, and the case then settled for a confidential substantial amount far in excess of the statutory cap.  The national fraternity was also required to institute a number of non-economic changes to make its operations safer.  Below is a link to the powerful film, “Haze,” that was produced by Gordie’s loving parents in order to warn others of the dangers of fraternity hazing.  Haze is narrated by Robin Penn Wright and has been shown to thousands of students and families across the country.

“Columbine High School Massacre” case

Client v. The Board of County Commissioners of the County of Jefferson, Colorado, et al.  More widely-known as the “Columbine High School Massacre.”  My partner, Peter Grenier, successfully represented the family of a math teacher at Columbine, in a Federal Civil Rights action against numerous parties responsible for the death of this beloved teacher.  Peter prevailed against the defendants’ motions to dismiss the action (where others did not), and then obtained a large, confidential settlement on behalf of the family.  Persons more interested in the compelling facts and legal theories of this case are encouraged to contact Peter and/or review the November 27, 2001 Memorandum Opinion and Order issued by Judge Lewis T. Babcock, Chief Judge of the United States Court for the District of Colorado.

Estate of Deceased College Student v. Chi Psi Fraternity et al.

Represented the family of a deceased college student who died following an evening of fraternity hazing at the University of Colorado in Boulder.  At the outset of this case, one defendant sought to evade liability for his misconduct based upon the State’s Dram Shop Act, which expressly prohibits certain civil claims by victim against a social host where the injuries were caused by the victim’s own voluntary consumption of alcohol.  Per this defendant, the victim could not proceed with his civil claims because – according to this defendant – the victim’s death was caused by his own voluntary drinking.  The Court denied that Motion, ruling that the Dram Shop Act did not apply because, among other reasons:  the defendant was not a “social host;” the consumption of alcohol was coerced in a reckless illegal hazing ritual; and, it is alleged that misconduct by the defendant following the victim’s incapacity was a cause of his death.  The case was settled against all defendants.  The family sought and obtained significant non-economic changes from the fraternity designed to make it safer.  View the trailer to the documentary “Haze” which deals with this case. Articles about this case follow :News Article 1News Article 2