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Florida Legislature Passes Anti-Hazing Bill & Sends It to the Governor

Today, the Florida Senate passed by a vote of 40-0 the anti-hazing bill written by David W. Bianchi and Michael Levine from Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A; the bill had previously been passed by the Florida House of Representatives and now goes to the Governor for signature.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., May 2, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Governor Ron DeSantis will soon be asked to sign "Andrew's Law," strengthening Florida's existing anti-hazing statute. Florida's previous anti-hazing statute, often called "the Chad Meredith Act," was signed into law by Governor Jeb Bush in 2005. It made hazing that causes serious injury or death a third-degree felony in Florida. It was among the first laws nationwide to make hazing causing injury a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

Attorneys David Bianchi, Michael Levine, and Stephen Cain of Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. stand alongside Kathy Mears, Chief Legislative Affairs Officer for Florida State University and Tom and Sandy Coffey after amendments to Florida's Hazing Statute are passed in the Florida House of Representatives - March 11, 2019.

The new law toughens Florida's existing hazing statute by providing that fraternity and sorority leaders who plan the hazing event but do not personally attend the event will be liable when someone is seriously hurt or killed; it provides that the first person who calls 911 to summon help for a hazing victim and anyone administering aid to the victim while waiting for help to arrive will not be prosecuted under the hazing statute; and it makes other improvements as well.

"We know we need to make our good law even better," said Attorney David Bianchi, of Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A., during his testimony before the Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee in early March during the one of the bill's first legislative hearings. Bianchi was one of the original architects of the "Chad Meredith Act" following his representation of Chad's parents, who successfully sued those responsible for Chad's hazing death at the University of Miami. "Andrew's Law" received bipartisan support in the Florida Legislature thanks to sponsorship and great support from Senator Lauren Book and Representative Chip LaMarca.

Andrew's Law is named for Andrew Coffey, a junior at Florida State University who died during a Pi Kappa Phi event in November 2017. As a pledge, Andrew was subjected to a tradition called "the family bottle" which required him to drink an entire bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon. Coffey later became extremely sick and intoxicated and was then moved to a couch where his fraternity "brothers" hoped he would sleep it off, but no one called for help. When they checked in on him the next morning, he was dead.

"If one of the kids from the party that night — there were 90 kids there — if just one of them would have picked up the phone when they saw that Andrew needed some help, he'd still be here," Andrew's mother Sandy said to lawmakers during bill hearings last month. The Coffey family, who was represented by Attorneys David W. Bianchi and Michael Levine from Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. in their civil suit against Pi Kappa Phi and 12 other defendants, has been a vocal proponent of the new legislation.

"Our changes to the anti-hazing statute should incentivize young men and women to call for help as soon as they see that someone has been injured or harmed by hazing. It would also hold accountable the leaders and officers of fraternities and sororities who put together events where hazing occurs," the law firm wrote on its website in April.

About Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A.: Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. is a Miami personal injury law firm founded in 1984. In their 35 years of operation, the firm has been at the forefront of hazing cases in Florida and other states.

 

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