Hazing at college—a deadly problem that needs to be fixed

by Charles Miller

Philip Dhanens was only a few weeks into his first semester at California State University when he died of alcohol poising while pledging for a fraternity. His parents have now filed a wrongful death suit against the fraternity Theta Chi Fraternity Inc., the local Beta Upsilon chapter, and six members of the fraternity. Three Fresno State students were charged last week with hazing and providing alcohol to Dhanens. The coroner’s office found that he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.36—nearly five times the legal driving limit.

Meanwhile, Northern Illinois University faces a wrongful death lawsuit regarding the death of David Bogenberger. The 19 year-old freshman died in November 2012 after drinking heavily at an NIU fraternity pledge party. The family’s lawsuit alleges that fraternity members made Bogenberger consume a dangerous amount of alcohol as part of a hazing ritual and then failed to help him when he passed out.

Florida A&M University is still trying to resolve a lawsuit filed by the family of Robert Champion, a university band drum major who died following a hazing ritual. The lawsuit claims university officials did not take enough action to stop hazing in the famed Marching 100 band before the death of their son. They have rejected a previous offer to settle the case for $300,000.

Two former University of Nebraska-Lincoln fraternity pledges who said they were hazed by members of Sigma Chi have settled their lawsuits against the university, the fraternity and its members. The lawsuit named the university, 14 of its members, its building corporation and its national organization. The suit alleged that pledges were verbally assaulted, paddled, forced to drink alcoholic concoctions and perform humiliating acts with other fraternity hopefuls — all at the direction of older members, some of them fraternity officers.

If you or someone you know has been injured or if you lost a loved one as a result of fraternity or college hazing, you need an experienced and knowledgeable law firm that can guide you through the legal process and obtain maximum compensation on your behalf. Our lawyers approach every case with the assumption it will be tried to a jury. Whether it’s hiring the right experts, obtaining the necessary records, interviewing the key witnesses or helping our clients get the medical care they need, our meticulous attention to detail ensures that our clients achieve maximum value for their claim.

In addition, Heygood, Orr & Pearson is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service. Our partners Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Heygood and Mr. Orr are additionally Board Certified in Civil Trial Advocacy Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Our partners been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the state of Texas for several years in a row.*

Contact our attorneys for a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out the free case evaluation form located on this page.


Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2013.