The Florida attorney who was instrumental in crafting the state’s current hazing law more than a decade ago now has his sights set on making hazing deaths punishable as a felony in all 50 states.
When David Bianchi represented the family of Chad Meredith, a University of Miami student who drowned trying to swim with fraternity brother after a night of drinking, the result was what he calls the largest fraternity hazing verdict in the country. The “Meredith Law” allows for felony charges to be brought if there is death or serious injury from hazing incidents.
Now, Bianchi is looking for a repeat of what happened in Florida – but on the national level. After the death of Florida State University student and Pi Kappa Phi pledge Andrew Coffey, whose parents Bianchi represents, he says he wants a law that will have even more teeth for holding frats accountable.
“So one of the things that we want to accomplish here, is that we want to have a federal law that will apply to all 50 states, which will make hazing that causes serious personal injury or death a felony,” Bianchi said. “And also have some additional sanctions, more so than even we have in Florida.”
Bianchi and the Coffey family are in the midst of seeking a trial date for a civil lawsuit they are bringing against the fraternity’s national chapter. The 41-page suit names 15 defendants – but Bianchi says as soon as a date is nailed down, he will focus on finding sponsors for the potential legislation.
“What we’ll do on a federal level is, we will find some congressmen and a senator to co-sponsor similar legislation but even tougher. And I think we can get that passed as well, because who would be opposed to it? And hopefully we can get the president to sign it,” Bianchi said.
Still, Bianchi is eyeing further changes in Florida’s university system. He said he is seeking the support of FSU President John Thrasher and all other university presidents for a new, no-tolerance policy.
“We want to enlist the support of president Thrasher at Florida State, and we would like him to work with us to lead an effort to get colleges and universities to commit – that from this day forward, if there is a fraternity hazing event that causes serious injury or death on any campus in the country, that that fraternity chapter will be permanently banned from the campus.”
**Clarification: President Thrasher wasn't immediately available to comment on this story.