RMF awards more than $1.5 million in earned incentives and premium subsidies to our Chapters each year and provides a number of additional educational grants through the Fraternity and Sigma Chi Leadership Institute.
RMF provides educational resources to help:
If a venue or vendor requires a Certificate of Insurance that names them as an Additional Insured, we request 30 days of advance notice to review the exposures and process with our broker. Please send the document that contains their requirement and a brief overview of the event to email@example.com
Many of you are aware that hazing is not covered under the Risk Management Foundation insurance policy. Specifically, the policy states:
It is hereby understood and agreed that this insurance does not apply to BODILY INJURY, PROPERTY DAMAGE and/or PERSONAL INJURY arising directly or indirectly out of HAZING.
HAZING is defined as including, but not limited to, any action taken or situation created, intentionally or unintentionally, whether on or off fraternity premises, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.
Such activities and situations include paddling in any form; creation of excessive fatigue; physical and psychological shocks; quests; treasure hunts; scavenger hunts; road trips or any such activities that are carried on outside the confines of the house; wearing publicly apparel which is conspicuous and not normal in good taste; engaging in public stunts and buffoonery; morally degrading or humiliating games and activities; late work sessions which interfere with scholastic activities; and any other activities which are not consistent with fraternal law, ritual or policy or the regulations and policies of the educational institution.
The RMF reviews each new claim with coverage counsel to determine whether a claim falls within the parameters of the chapter’s policy. The RMF operates to protect the overall interests of its members; however, it is important to note that the dollars spent defending and resolving these claims ultimately impact the cost of future insurance.
In the past, a plaintiff would generally name Sigma Chi Fraternity, the chapter, and select chapter officers in claims related to hazing. In some instances, the General Fraternity and chapter have been named in a suit as well as every member of the chapter. Due to the RMF’s hazing exclusion, the legal costs associated with such claims often rest upon the shoulders of those individual brothers and the chapter.
More recently, lawsuits are claiming that chapters not only hazed, but were negligent as well—that is, chapters are accused of culpability because members of the group did not protect an individual against foreseeable risky or harmful acts.
RMF has compiled a comprehensive Risk Management Plan template which highlights the guiding policies and major risk exposures for Chapters.
Click here to make a copy of the template as an editable Google Document. (You must sign-in to Google and Click File>Make a Copy)
Or Download the Model Risk Management Plan Template here.
Educate your brothers: Involve your entire chapter in the creation of your Risk Management Plan and share this information with all members.
Real Life Lessons
Late one summer, the Sigma Chi Chapter held an informal Pre-Rush party. Classes had yet to begin, the weather that evening was great, and friends were happy to see each other after the summer break. No kegs or drugs were present at the event, but cans of beer were available and had been purchased with chapter funds. What started as a small, “unofficial party,” surged to over 200 guests, forcing Consul Jason Kohl shut down the party around 12:30 AM.
Ryan Baxter, 19 years old, was one of the guests of this party. Ryan was not a Sigma Chi or a student of the university; he was an invited guest of friend and Sigma Chi brother, Paul Numsen. Ryan and Paul were drinking most of the evening. It is not certain whether this was alcohol they purchased on their own or received from the chapter. A later report stated that Ryan was intoxicated upon his arrival at the chapter house, but may have still consumed alcohol on the chapter’s premises.
At one point, Ryan accessed the second story roof through the window of Paul’s room. The Consul described the roof from which Ryan fell as a “deck which no one is allowed to go on and everyone has been repeatedly told not to go on.” However, depositions from chapter members revealed that the roof was regularly used as a makeshift deck. There were no railings on the roof and the only access to it was through a window. State law requires railings on all decks.
It is not certain how long Ryan was on the roof, but around 1:00 AM, he fell from the second story roof to the pavement below. Shortly before his fall, a brother described hearing the sound of a chair being moved on the roof.
Upon arrival of the police, blood had pooled beneath Ryan’s head, he was unconscious, and his blood-alcohol level was 0.08.
Medical evaluation of Ryan determined that his brain was “bruised,” he was in a coma for a short time after his fall, and had broken his jaw. His medical bills totaled $131,000. Ryan has permanent injuries from this accident.
Ryan filed suit against Sigma Chi International Fraternity and the local chapter, seeking damages for medical bills, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.
On or about April 11, 2003, Joe S. suffered permanent and disabling brain injuries during what he alleges was a Sigma Chi Fraternity pledging incident. Shortly after enrolling at ____ University, Joe became a pledge at the local Sigma Chi chapter. On April 11, he attended “Bid Night,” an evening of activities that Joe was required to attend as a condition of membership. The pledge activities were under the direction of the fraternity members.
At the chapter house, Joe and the other pledges were subjected to a variety of pledge “activities,” which included public humiliation, embarrassment and physical abuse. One such incident involved the pledges being sprayed with beer and wine. These activities were considered traditions for the chapter. Later, the Sigma Chi members drove the pledges to an off-campus house that was occupied by members of the chapter. They were told to leave their personal possessions behind, including their cell phones, wallets and keys. The “Bid Night” activities continued and alcohol was made available to the pledges, some of whom were underage.
Around 12:30 a.m., the local sheriff disbanded the party upon complaints of excess noise.
However, Joe was last seen at the event around 11:30 p.m. The next time anyone remembers seeing Joe was around 2 a.m. at the front door of his dorm. He has no recollection of what happened to him during those hours.
After exhaustive interviews by campus administration and local authorities, no one could account for what happened to Joe.
Joe alleges he was under the control of the Sigma Chi members at “Bid Night,” and that during this time he sustained a large skull fracture, multiple brain contusions, and associated swelling and bleeding of the brain. As a result, Joe now suffers cognitive and motor impairments and will require a lifetime of medical care.
The cause of the injury remains unclear.
A lawsuit was brought against the named parties charging them with negligence, breach of duty to provide medical assistance, hazing, and breach of contract.
The RMF spent in excess of $100,000 defending and resolving this claim.
Analysis of Joe S. v. Sigma Chi Fraternity, Et Al – Provided by RMF legal counsel
The state in which the university is situated has an anti-hazing law, like most states, which provides that in the course of a person’s initiation into an organization, it is unlawful to intentionally and recklessly engage in conduct that creates a substantial risk of physical injury to that person. Further, hazing is defined by the state as any action taken or situation created intentionally, whether on or off fraternity premises, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule.
Moreover, the RMF’s insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for hazing-related claims. Thus, under the RMF’s insurance policies, only limited insurance coverage was available to the General Fraternity, chapter and chapter officers for the claims not related to hazing.
If a verdict had been rendered against the General Fraternity, chapter and chapter officers which provided that the pledge’s injuries were caused by acts of hazing, then the RMF’s policies would have covered neither the judgment amount, nor the legal fees associated with defending the hazing claims.
Furthermore, if a verdict had been rendered against the General Fraternity, chapter and chapter officers for combined liability on the claims for hazing and negligence, then the RMF’s policies would have only covered the judgment and legal fees associated with the claims not related to hazing.
Importantly, this would have also been the case if any of the following parties were included in the lawsuit: alumni advisors, local alumni association, house corporation, and General Fraternity regional and national officers.
Recruitment had just concluded at a large, southeastern university. The Chi Alpha Chapter of Sigma Chi was pleased with the new pledge class of 40 young men. Over the summer the University had implemented new rules regarding Bid Day and fraternity parties—any Bid Day celebration was now required to be alcohol free.
The chapter hosted a brief celebration for the new pledges at the chapter house from 6-7pm without issue. At that point all brothers and pledges were encouraged to go to an offcampus house rented by three Sigma Chis. The chapter leadership maintained that this was simply three brothers hosting a party and unrelated to Bid Day, and therefore, the “dry” Bid Day rules did not apply.
There were several kegs of beer at the off-campus house and no one was checking IDs. As the event unfolded, brothers and pledges began playing drinking games. Shortly before midnight, one pledge, Tom Warner, disappeared. Brothers looked for him briefly until someone suggested that he had just decided to return to the dorms. Around 6am the next morning, school security found Warner unconscious below a campus pedestrian bridge. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors diagnosed him with severe head trauma. Due to his prolonged recovery, Warner was forced to withdraw from school for two semesters.
Warner’s parents filed a lawsuit naming the Chi Alpha Chapter, the Chi Alpha House Corporation, the Consul, the Magister, and the Recruitment Chairman. The complaint alleged that the chapter knowingly violated school and fraternity alcohol policies; that the officers created an unsafe environment for the pledges, who were in their care; and that secret Bid Night hazing activities led to Warner’s head injuries. The lawsuit demanded $900,000 in medical expenses, future medical expenses, and pain and suffering. The parents offered $10,000 to any brother who would come forward with information about the hazing.
Initiation Week at a Midwestern Chapter turned deadly when actives and pledges were allowed free time between events. Some chose to go to the bars, hang out and drink until they were to report to the off-campus site. The tradition at the chapter was to travel to a site 10 miles away for an initiation lecture. Approximately 30 actives and 15 pledges were to travel from the chapter house to the ritual site on back roads, with each pledge blindfolded and riding in an automobile with actives.
One of the cars carried three active members and one pledge; an active, Sam Dillon age 21 drove. The other actives, both 20 years old, were Terry Simpson and Mitchell Hampton. The pledge Tom Williams was age 19.
On the way to the site Sam turned around to reach in the back seat for a cigarette from Terry; it was at this time that he lost control of the car. The vehicle flipped and landed in a ditch. Terry and Mitchell were thrown from the backseat and landed in a field. Tom was thrown through the window, crushed by the car, and died instantly.
Sam tested negative for intoxication, but Tom, who was only 19, had a blood alcohol level of 1.8, well above the legal limit for intoxication. Tom was served alcohol at a nearby bar, The Beach. The bar had closed at 1:00 a.m. but Tom was still intoxicated at 3:30 a.m. when the crash took place.
Despite the fact that it was an accident, Tom’s parents filed a lawsuit against your organization for creating an unsafe environment and taking Tom, blindfolded and under the care of the chapter, to the event.
The night started when Alan (a 21 year old active) Barry and Frank (both 18 year old pledges) of the Sigma Chi Fraternity decided to take a short road trip to a neighboring university to attend a party that another Sigma Chi chapter was hosting. Alan, Barry and Frank had heard that this party was “closed” to only chapter members, pledges, and their dates, but Alan figured that since he was good friends with some of the actives at the house, it wouldn’t be any problem to attend.
Alan drove Barry and Frank in his Jeep Wrangler to the party. They arrived at approximately 10:30 p.m. and proceeded to the front door of the house. They were told by the security guards that they would not be allowed inside because their names were not on the guest list. The security guards had been told by the Chapter’s Consul to check ID’s and stamp the hands of only those people that were of legal drinking age.
Alan and the two pledges decided to go around back and sneak in through another door. They were able to enter through one that was propped open with no problem and began to mingle with everyone at the party.
Right away Alan noticed that everyone who was drinking had their hand stamped. He had been to a number of parties in the past and knew that once a person was in a party their hands were never usually checked by the bartender or anyone else. Alan decided to go up to the bartender (a licensed, insured third party vendor) for a beer and successfully proved his theory. The night progressed and Alan consumed a few beers. Soon he decided to join in with a group of people who were playing a drinking game. The game involved taking shots of Wild Turkey, which someone else had secretly brought to the party.
Even though Alan and the pledges were having fun, it was getting late and they decided to head back to their own campus. No one at the party stopped them from driving home even though all three were visibly intoxicated. As they were getting in the Jeep, Barry asked Alan if he thought he was okay to drive. Alan knew he had a pretty good “buzz” going, but he had driven this way before and nothing had ever happened.
While driving home, Alan was in the right/exit lane and clipped a 1991 Honda Prelude driven by Samantha McConnell. As Alan struck the Prelude, both vehicles lost control and rolled down the embankment. The roof of the Prelude collapsed, severely injuring Samantha and killing her three-year-old son Josh who was also in the car.
It was found that Alan had been driving his vehicle while intoxicated, and had a blood alcohol level of 0.12.
In addition to suing Alan in criminal court, the McConnell family is suing the Sigma Chi Fraternity for creating an unsafe environment and allowing Alan to leave their care and operate a vehicle.
A Pacific Northwest Chapter spent their Spring Break on houseboats at Lake Shasta. It is the tradition at the university for all undergrads to vacation there, and it was also known as a place to informally rush pledges for the following fall. The chapter invited a group of friends, brothers, pledges and guests to kick back and relax for a week on several houseboats. To make it easier to reserve the boat and collect money from guests, a brother paid for the rental of the boat and had the guests reimburse him. Though it was never intended to be a chapter event, one of the brothers made up t-shirts that has the organization’s name and “Shasta 1988” printed on it to commemorate the event.
The boat company, Water Boats, Inc., was aware that the men appointed to be captains did not have extensive training on driving boats. The company did require that these men go through a safety lecture before anyone boarded the vessels. Water Boats, Inc. was also aware that large amounts of alcohol were probably going to be brought aboard. Individuals brought on kegs and various bottles of hard liquor to share with everyone. All of the guests on the boat decided to partake in the fun and consumed alcohol on the trip. The first night was a big one. Nearly all of the guests, including a brother’s date named Kathleen Masters, stayed up until 5:00 a.m. partying and drinking. The next morning, at approximately 8:00 a.m., Kathleen woke up and went to sit in the sun at the edge of the boat, near the motor. Many of the guests were still intoxicated, including Kathleen. The driver, Marty, was not legally intoxicated. He had consumed alcohol the night before and had not slept in over 36 hours. Everyone on the boat wanted to get an early start on the lake and anchor out at a prime spot. Without warning, Marty put the boat in gear, and it began to move forward.
Kathleen lost her balance, fell in the water and was immediately sucked into the propeller. Two brothers jumped in to help her. Despite their attempts at rescue, Kathleen’s foot got caught in the motor’s blades. She was air lifted to a trauma hospital. Kathleen sustained broken bones, lacerations, multiple contusions and abrasions to her lower left foot and ankle. She lost her fifth toe as well as the majority of her fourth toe. In spite of all that was done for her, Kathleen has suffered much pain and long-term damage. She will live with the deformity of her left foot forever and will never be able to walk without wearing shoes.
The end of the spring semester drew to a close, and the Sigma Chi Chapter members’ finals would begin in the week ahead. It was a Saturday afternoon and some of the brothers sought a break from their studies. A few of the pledges also hung out at the chapter house that day. One of the pledges was 19 year-old Martin Kelly.
Some of the brothers, whose finals were complete, had already packed up their belongings and returned home for the summer, leaving a number of the rooms vacant. On this afternoon, the remaining brothers thought it would be fun to set up mattresses from these vacant rooms outside one of the second story windows of the house and jump out the window onto the mattresses below. They asked the pledges to gather the mattresses and stack them in the yard. Once done, a brother told the pledges that they should jump onto the mattresses first; some of the brothers said the pledges’ induction into Sigma Chi Fraternity may depend upon it. However, the brothers later said that this last remark was a joke that the pledges misunderstood as an order. “We were all just having fun. We thought they were, too,” remarked the Magister later in a deposition.
One of the pledges jumped and landed without injury. Encouraged by this, Martin jumped next. He landed on the mattresses, but the impact ruptured one of his vertebrae, causing paralysis in his pelvis and legs. Neither the Fraternity nor the university was informed of this accident until that October.
After the accident, surgeons were able to fuse four of Martin’s vertebrae together. This allowed him to walk and a year later, he was back in school, attending a community college. However, Martin still lacked bladder control and continued to suffer from significant leg and back pain. Martin’s mother quit her job to care for him at home. The Kelly family’s bills soared to $200,000, including medical bills and the accumulated costs to retrofit the house, allowing easy access for Martin.
The Kelly family filed suit against Sigma Chi International Fraternity, the university, and the local chapter, seeking damages for medical bills, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.
Claims analysis shows that the absence of alcohol in chapter facilities greatly reduces the likelihood and severity of potential injury or loss to our chapters, members and guests.
Risk management data also demonstrates that the use of licensed vendors to handle any alcohol purchase and distribution is the most effective method to transfer risk and will significantly reduce exposure for chapter activities.
This statement affirms our chapter’s pledge that upon our honor:
* Exceptions may be granted for key events where several adults will be present, such as Homecoming or graduation, given adequate notice and planning with the RMF.
ALCOHOL SERVICE VENDORS MUST:
Upholding this chapter-wide decision earns a 22% reduction in RMF fees.
Failure to uphold this pledge will result in a removal of the credit, a 7% surcharge, suspension of RMF credits for 3 years and notice to the Fraternity’s Chapter and Member Accountability Committee (CAMAC).
Dangers of Drinking and Driving - This site provides a brief guide about the dangers of drinking and driving
College Drinking-Changing the Culture - A site sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Choose Responsibility - a nonprofit organization founded to stimulate informed and dispassionate public discussion about the presence of alcohol in American culture and to consider policies that will effectively empower young adults age 18 to 20 to make mature decisions about the place of alcohol in their own lives.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Alcohol and Public Health Fact Sheets
Indiana LifeLine Law - The Indiana Lifeline Law provides immunity for some alcohol-related offenses, subject to certain conditions, to Hoosiers who request medical assistance for someone in need or receieve medical assistance due to a request by someone else.
Quit Alcohol - Drinking and Driving Dangers: How to Avoid Disaster