Fraternity “Fight Night” Charity Event Turns Deadly
Four days after 20-year-old Nathan Valencia headlined in UNLV’s Kappa Sigma’s charity event dubbed “Fight Night,” he succumbed to head injuries he sustained in the ring. His death has since been ruled a homicide.
Kappa Sigma’s Fight Night was a well-known annual event. Seven fights were programmed for this year’s event, with proceeds benefiting Center Ring Boxing, a north valley boxing club that supports and trains local youth.
Nathan Valencia was a junior at UNLV, weighing in at only about 135 pounds, and was not an experienced boxer. His family and attorneys feel that someone should be held liable for his death.
Who is Accountable in Fraternity Events?
The Valencia family has retained Las Vegas attorney Nicholas Lasso and Ryan Zimmer of the Richard Harris Law Firm. Both specialize in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Lasso told the Associated Press, “We just keep finding safety failure after safety failure. Every precaution that could have been taken seems to have been thrown to the wayside. We intend to hold someone or multiple parties responsible.”
The Nevada State Athletic Commission has just announced that it will be conducting its own investigation of the event.
Kappa Sigma is No Newcomer to Problems
Kappa Sigma has had its share of issues on UNLV’s campus. In 1997, the parent affiliate suspended the fraternity after hazing incidents of its 1996 pledge class. In 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, UNLV suspended both Kappa Sigma’s fraternity and sorority for various infractions and conduct violations. But until now, no lives had been lost.
Kappa Sigma is not alone. Unfortunately, injuries and deaths associated with fraternities are becoming far too common. Fraternity hazings and other activities that force pledges into dangerous activities have led to serious injuries and, unfortunately, tragic deaths like this one.
Who Can Be Held Liable in Fraternity Deaths and Injuries?
While the purpose of fraternities and sororities is supposed to be about community and service, the Animal House stereotype of parties and binge drinking is now what we most associate with them. Over the past few decades, injuries and deaths due to hazing incidents, sexual violence, and alcohol and drug use at fraternity events have been on the increase.
Depending on the circumstances, individual fraternity members and local fraternity chapters and the national organization can be held accountable for injuries and deaths occurring at these events.
Even if no one is held criminally responsible, civil charges may be brought by the injured party, or, in the case of a fatality, a wrongful death lawsuit by the family.
Can the University Be Held Liable?
Litigation against fraternities and other fraternity members has resulted in millions in civil damages for victims and their families. But it becomes a bit stickier when trying to hold a university liable for damages.
Historically, although a university takes an active role in the regulation of fraternities and sororities on and off campus, the institution itself has been considered a parental supervisor under the concept of “in loco parentis” in the eyes of the law.
Consequently, many courts have not been willing to hold them liable in the case of fraternity-related deaths and injuries. There are some ways that colleges and universities may be held liable, however, under other legal doctrines, depending on the situation.
Preliminary Investigations Show No Safety Precautions in Place
Preliminary investigation has already indicated that there were no medical personnel on site, despite participants being knocked unconscious in previous years’ events. The referee had no training and no license as required by the Nevada Athletic Commission and had been recorded on video drinking right before the fight.
According to a statement put out by the attorneys for the Valencia family: “From this, it is clear that UNLV, Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and the Sahara Event Center all looked the other way and failed to ensure proper safety precautions were in place.
We will hold those responsible for Nathan’s death accountable and ensure that this never happens to another son, daughter, or member of this community.”