Ballou v. Sigma Nu General Fraternity
South Carolina Court of Appeals
352 S.E.2d 488 (1986)
Ballou was a pledge of the local chapter of the Sigma Nu fraternity (defendant) at the University of South Carolina. At the end of the pledging process, pledges were required to attend an initiation party called “hell night.” At the party, pledges were given large quantities of alcohol within a short period of time and encouraged to drink as much as possible. If a pledge was unable or unwilling to do so, he was ridiculed, belittled, called names, and his masculinity was questioned by active brothers. The pledges were subjected to a ceremony and forced to sing fraternity songs that encouraged drinking in large quantities. Ballou passed out laying on his back on a couch in the fraternity house. At least three active brothers checked on him and were concerned that he was pale and unresponsive. Yet, they did not take him to a hospital. Another pledge turned Ballou over onto his stomach in case he vomited. The next morning, an active brother found Ballou dead. Ballou died of acute alcohol intoxication with terminal aspiration of his gastric contents. Had Ballou been taken to a hospital, he may not have died. Ballou’s father (plaintiff), as the administrator of his estate, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the fraternity. A jury awarded Ballou’s father compensatory damages in the amount of $200,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $50,000. The fraternity moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which the trial court denied. The fraternity appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Goolsby, J.)
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