FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – A former Francis Marion University student and his legal counsel won a $1.6 million lawsuit Thursday stemming from a fraternity hazing incident in October 2011 in Florence.
According to a news release from McLeod Law Group, a Florence County jury returned a verdict in favor of Daniel McElveen, the Plaintiff, who alleged that he was repeatedly beaten during the Phi Beta Sigma Francis Marion Chapter's "Hell Night" initiation process on the night of October 22, 2011.
The incident happened at the home of the Defendant, an FMU alum and high-ranking fraternity member named Maurice Robinson. According to Captain Michael Nunn with the Florence County Sheriff's Office, nine suspects, including Robinson, intentionally inflicted physical harm on the victim by beating him with a paddle in order to be admitted to the fraternity. The victim reportedly suffered serious injuries and had to be hospitalized for several days. The victim also suffered acute renal failure, according to the McLeod Law Group.
As a result of the incident, nine suspects were arrested and charged with misdemeanor hazing, three suspects who were FMU students at the time were suspended, and the FMU chapter of Phi Beta Sigma was also suspended.
"We have a policy that prohibits hazing of any kind and we hold strong to that," said Angela Crosland of FMU shortly after the incident. "This was an off-campus incident, we have no control over what happens off campus but I think we've done a pretty good job controlling what happens on campus."
Crosland said FMU has an ongoing risk management program overseeing the activities of Greek Organizations at the university. She added the university hasn't had a problem like this and they will continue to do what they've always done with the program.
"This is just an isolated incident and we hope nothing like this ever happens again," Crosland said.
At the trial, Robinson argued that McElveen was responsible for allowing himself to be hazed and beaten, the McLeod news release states. McElveen, through his counsel, presented evidence that hazing is not a consensual act, but the perpetrators hold power and control over the victims. The jury returned a verdict for $600,000 actual damages and $1,000,000 in punitive damages against the Defendant.
"The jury rejected the idea that victims are to blame in hazing cases," stated lead attorney Mullins McLeod. "I hope their verdict makes college students think twice before they brutally, physically haze innocent students. Hazing and bullying has no place in our schools or universities."