Monday, April 15, 2019

Criminal Convictions Found to Support Negligence per se Finding in Companion Civil Case

In the fraternity hazing case of Liu v. Pi Delta Psi Fraternity, Inc., No. 3028-CV-2015 (C.P. Monroe Co. March 21, 2019 Zulick, J.), Judge Arthur L. Zulick of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas addressed a Plaintiff’s use of the doctrine of offensive collateral estoppel by way of a Motion for Summary Judgment seeking a finding of liability against certain fraternity Defendants based upon prior criminal convictions and/or pleas of guilty relative to the hazing charges arising out of the same incident.

According to the Opinion, this case arose out of fatal injuries to a pledge to a fraternity at Baruch College in New York City.   The fraternity had rented a house in Monroe County over a weekend for initiation rituals.  

After the Plaintiff’s decedent sustained fatal injuries allegedly as a result of the initiation rituals, a personal injury action was brought against the fraternity and various members of the fraternity.   

In separate proceedings, criminal charges were brought against the fraternity and 37 individuals.  

One of the Defendants at issue with respect to the Motion for Summary Judgment had entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to hinder apprehension/conceal evidence, and conspiracy to commit hazing.  

The fraternity itself went to trial and was convicted of multiple counts, including aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, and hazing.  

The Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that the Defendants at issue, who had been previously convicted of charges and/or who pled guilty to charges in the criminal case should be deemed to be negligent per se in this civil lawsuit.

Judge Arthur L. Zulick
After reviewing the law pertaining to negligence cause of actions and negligence per se, the court ruled that summary judgment would be entered in favor of the Plaintiff due to the Defendants’ convictions for conspiracy to haze the Plaintiff, which convictions were found to supply the basis for a determination of a breach of duty in this negligence cause of action.  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

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