While a wrongful death does mean someone has died, there are times when that death results in the public good.
Letâ€™s take a look at a case we heard about that took place in Texas, at one of the Universities. This story involved the very tragic death of an 18-year-old fraternity pledge. Tyson Millar (name has been changed to protect the identity of the victimâ€™s family) fell to his death from a balcony in 2006. The story takes a turn for the ugly when we find out that the young lad had been harassed and hazed for several days prior to his death. It was supposedly a part of his initiation into the fraternity.
Young Tyson was sleep deprived, assaulted, beaten with large bamboo sticks and paddles, and forced to drink copious quantities of alcohol. While a rather strange way to welcome someone into a fraternity, this type of behavior was considered to be normal. It didnâ€™t turn out to be normal for Tyson, as his body was discovered on the sidewalk near an off-campus dorm. The autopsy report revealed a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit.
Unfortunately, this type of thing had happened in the past at this University and in fact, in 2009, two people associated with another incident pleaded no contest to hazing and giving booze to minors and were sentenced to four days in jail and two years of deferred adjudication (a form of probation).
In addition, the former head of the fraternity that Millar was trying to gain entrance to also pleaded no contest to the charges and got a year of deferred adjudication. A fourth frat member pleaded no contest to failure to report hazing and also received one year of deferred adjudication. In everything in life, there are consequences.
In Tysonâ€™s case, the family had hoped for significant changes to be implemented to the hazing and fraternity rituals on the campus. Their hopes were not in vain. The wrongful death suit against the fraternity resulted in a settlement that will create changes for future pledges to keep them safe.
Part of the settlement agreement included provisions that the fraternity would institute a comprehensive educational program, including a video with input from Tysonâ€™s parents, in all its national chapters to eliminate any of the usual forms of hazing and educate members about the dangers of hazing. In agreeing to make these changes, the fraternity was still allowed to operate.
Other things included in the agreement were the mandate that the frat group must give advance notice of large parties, limit the attendance of guests to those specifically on a pre-party guest list, hire off-duty police officers for security, and limit parties/events to Fridays and Saturdays, and call it quits at 2 a.m. While the tragedy of losing Tyson to such a senseless ritual was devastating to the family, their insistence that good come out of it for other university students has been honored.
Wrongful death cases may be handled in many different ways, and the outcome for each one is often tailor-made for that particular case. Despite the fact that financial damages were still awarded in this instance, there is the chance to ask for things to be done in the public good to protect others from suffering similar deaths. This is something to consider depending on the facts of your wrongful death case.
Robert Webb is an Atlanta personal injury lawyer with Webb & Dâ€™Orazio, a law firm specializing in Atlanta personal injury, malpractice, criminal defense, and business law. Learn more at Webbdorazio.com.