Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Federal Middle District Court Addresses Issues of Alleged Hazing and the Applicablity of an Arbitration Agreement on Such Allegations

In the case of Jean v. Bucknell University, No. 4:20-CV-01722 (M.D. Pa. April 16, 2021 Brann, J.), the court granted Bucknell University’s Motion to Dismiss a Plaintiff’s Complaint arising out of allegations that the Plaintiff was hazed during an event on campus.   

The Plaintiff alleges that, after the alleged hazing events, Bucknell University attempted to keep word as to what happened within the campus walls in an effort to avoid the publicity associated with taking adverse or disciplinary action against the students involved or the fraternity involved.   


In his Complaint, the Plaintiff asserted three claims against Bucknell, including claims for hazing, negligence, and negligence per se.   


Bucknell University filed a Motion to Dismiss under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6).   


Judge Matthew W. Brann noted that, under the Twombly/Iqbal analysis, in order to survive a Motion to Dismiss, “a Complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’”   See Op. at 7


The court went on to note that “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the Plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the Defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”   Id.   


After reviewing the case before it, the court concluded that Bucknell did not owe a duty to the Plaintiff under the circumstances presented.   The court rejected the Plaintiff’s request that the court articulate a new duty encompassing Bucknell’s conduct in this case.   It appeared to the court that the duty that the Plaintiff’s sought to have imposed was to require colleges to regulate and control fraternities that the college specifically knows are likely to engage in hazing of pledges.   The court rejected the Plaintiff’s request for the creation of such a duty.   


The court also rejected the Plaintiff’s request that a duty be imposed upon the university under various sections of the Restatement (Second) of Torts.   


The court additionally dismissed the Plaintiff’s claims for hazing and negligence per se, both of which claims were predicated upon Bucknell University’s alleged violation of Pennsylvania’s anti-hazing statute.   


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


I send thanks to Attorney Owen Coleman of the Law Offices of Harry Coleman in Carbondale, Pennsylvania for bringing this case to my attention.


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In the case of Jean v. Bucknell University, No. 4:20-CV-01722 (M.D. Pa. April 16, 2021 Brann, J.), Judge Matthew W. Brann, issued a separate decision in this case addressing various Motions to Compel Arbitration in a case involving hazing allegations.  


The court noted that every student who receives a bid to join the fraternity must a complete a new member registration form on the fraternity’s website.  Under that document, the new member consented to mandatory arbitration of any legal claims or disputes between the member and the fraternity.   


In this decision, the court addressed various issues on whether the mandatory arbitration provisions should be imposed upon the parties given that a separate personal injury litigation was also pending.   


In a 50 page Opinion, the court declined to sever any unconscionable terms of the arbitration agreement and instead ruled that the agreement should be allowed to stand.   In the end, however, the court denied the various Motions to Compel Arbitration.   


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


I send thanks to Attorney Owen Coleman of the Law Offices of Harry Coleman in Carbondale, Pennsylvania for bringing this case to my attention.   


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