School Violence/Hazing

Schools are intended to provide a platform for education and camaraderie. However, all too often, students suffer violence at their educational institutions, whether it be in the form of a rape on campus or at a fraternity house, or a hazing ritual gone wrong with resulting serious injury or the death of a pledge.

Violence may occur in any part of the school, from locker rooms and dormitories to school yards and classrooms. Unfortunately, when such violence takes place, schools often baselessly contend that the incidents were unforeseeable and beyond their control in the hopes of avoiding liability. As such, when school violence occurs, you need experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel who are willing and ready to fight for your rights.

Hazing is the imposition of strenuous and often humiliating tasks as part of a program of rigorous physical training and initiation. This abusive and degrading conduct is made worse when serious injuries or death are the consequence. Various student organizations engage in hazing, including fraternities, sororities, and athletic programs. If you or your child has fallen victim to this physically and emotionally abusive practice, you need seasoned attorneys who know full well how to prosecute these types of claims.

Many states have passed anti-hazing statutes, which not only criminalize the act of hazing, but they also can give rise to private civil claims. For example, Virginia’s anti-hazing statute precludes a defendant from asserting as a defense that the injured pledge knowingly assumed the risk of his/her own injury.

In a case that grabbed national attention, Mr. Grenier represented the family of deceased teacher, William David Sanders, who died on the afternoon of April 20, 1999, in the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre, in Littleton, Colorado. More than a dozen lawsuits were filed in the same time frame, on behalf of injured or deceased students and against various law enforcement agencies and members. On behalf of Mr. Sanders’ estate, Mr. Grenier crafted civil rights claims under very narrow exceptions to the general rule against liability of the law enforcement officers and agencies involved in responding to Columbine. Literally all of the other substantive claims against law enforcement were dismissed by the federal court – the only successful claims were those brought by Mr. Grenier on behalf of the Sanders family. Mr. Grenier subsequently successfully settled that case for $1.5 million.

It is undisputed that Mr. Grenier was the pioneer in forging the way nationally for successful lawsuits holding schools and governments accountable in shooting and other violent incidents occurring at schools and the like.

Almost eight years to the day after the tragedy at Columbine High School, on April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Tech, shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks on campus, approximately two hours apart, before committing suicide (another six people were injured escaping from classroom windows. The massacre is the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history and one of the deadliest by a single gunman worldwide.

Mr. Grenier represented 20 families of victims in the April 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre and negotiated a complex settlement with the Commonwealth of Virginia totaling more than $11 million on behalf of all participating victims. John McCammon, founder of The McCammon Group (the mediation company involved in the settlement), described these accomplishments in the following terms: “I think that you [Mr. Grenier] and Doug have been stellar. You have served your clients so well and at the same time distinguished yourselves as first class, effective, efficient, practical and collaborative attorneys who know how to deal with the big issues. While tough on substance, you were smooth on style. That is a difficult combination to pull off. My hat is off to both of you.”

There is simply no other attorney in the United States with the unique experience that Mr. Grenier has in these types of cases, bar none. He is currently involved in the cases arising out of the September 16, 2013, shooting deaths of 12 individuals at the D.C. Naval Yard by Aaron Alexis.

GLG’s lawyers also obtained a seven figure settlement in a wrongful death case on behalf of a university student who died during a fraternity hazing ritual. GLG recognizes that it is not simply about the money – surviving family members want to know that their loved one did not die totally in vain, and that substantive changes are made with respect to monitoring the offending fraternities, adding teeth to enforcement of no-hazing policies, and ensuring swift and quick disciplinary and other action in the face of such behavior. Inasmuch as alcohol – including underage drinking — is a major contributor to many hazing injuries and deaths, there must also be a focus on real enforcement of zero tolerance underage drinking policies with dire consequences.

Please contact GLG and we will be happy to review with you – at absolutely no charge – your particular rights and remedies.