Use the Chapter House Self-Inspection checklist to review your property and life-safety risk management.

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Background

A sorority chapter was having a co-sponsored event with a fraternity chapter on campus in hopes of raising funds for the fraternity’s philanthropy. The event was held at the fraternity chapter house. Some of the fraternity members setup a make-shift slip-and-slide using tarps and spikes. The individuals that setup the slip-and-slide did not push the spikes all the way into the ground. The sorority chapter women had nothing to do with the design of the slip-and-slide.

Scenario

About twenty minutes after the event started, a non-member guest went down the slip-and-slide and severely injured her leg on one of the spikes that was sticking up from the ground. The claimant’s estimated medical expenses are nearly $40,000. The claimant’s attorney has requested a settlement of $300,000 from the fraternity and sorority in question and has threatened further legal action if that amount is not paid to the claimant within 30 days.

Result

The fraternity’s insurance company plans to offer the claimant a settlement of $100,000, and the sorority’s insurance company has offered to contribute twenty percent of the proposed settlement amount (equal to $20,000) to the fraternity’s insurance company.  

Risk management lessons

This claim demonstrates that your chapters, volunteers and members can still be named in lawsuits even when they had little to do with an injury occurring other than co-sponsoring said event. In this case, if the sorority had inspected the slip-and-slide and realized the danger that the metal spikes posed (as well as the risks associated with a makeshift slip-and-slide, in general), the injury may have been prevented. This claim demonstrates that your chapters, volunteers and members can still be named in lawsuits even when they had little to do with an injury occurring other than co-sponsoring said event. In this case, if the sorority had inspected the slip-and-slide and realized the danger that the metal spikes posed (as well as the risks associated with a makeshift slip-and-slide, in general), the injury may have been prevented.

Issues to discuss

  • What safer alternatives are there to a slip-and-slide activity?
  • What measures should the sorority chapter have put in place to ensure the safety of events that they are co-sponsoring with another fraternity chapter, especially when the event is being held at the fraternity chapter house?
  • What other takeaways can you glean from this example to improve risk management at your location?
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Scenario

Two members attended a semi-formal event in which alcohol was served by a third-party vendor. Both members were over 21 and reportedly had been drinking at the event. It is believed that they were walking home from the party and became disoriented and lost. One member tripped and fell as she walked into the street. The other member tried to help her up, when they were both struck by a car. One member was killed and the other member sustained serious injuries.

At this point, no charges have been filed against the sorority; however, the statute of limitations in the state in question has yet to expire.

Issues to discuss

  • Do your policies address transportation to and from official events?
  • Fortunately, in this situation, the alcohol was served by a licensed, insured third-party vendor. Discuss how using licensed, insured third-party vendors is so important to managing your risk.
  • What additional risk management policies should have been in place to minimize the likelihood of a claim like this happening again?
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Scenario

A member attended a party at an “unofficial” chapter house.  The “unofficial” chapter house was actually an apartment, in which four chapter members lived together.  The apartment came to be known on campus as your organization’s chapter house.  The member was very intoxicated, and some other chapter members arranged for a fraternity chapter member to drive her home.  The fraternity chapter member accidentally ran over her as he was backing out of her driveway. 

In the discovery process of the claim, it was revealed that a traveling consultant from the national organization had visited with this specific chapter the week before.  The plaintiff’s attorney found evidence that the traveling consultant had participated in drinking games with the chapter members.

The insurance company settled the claim on behalf of the plaintiff for just under $1M.

Issues to discuss

  • Do you have locations that are not official chapter houses that might appear to be chapter houses? If so, what can you do to minimize “unofficial” chapter houses from appearing as chapter houses on your campus?
  • How does the traveling consultant’s actions and behavior contribute to the negligence and liability of the sorority?
  • What risk management policies should have been in place to minimize the likelihood of a claim like this happening again?

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One of the more challenging exposures of writing a women’s fraternity or sorority is keeping the insurance and risk management recommendations “contemporary” to the changing dynamics of a campus women’s organization.  As the size of the chapter increase in membership numbers, more and more sorority sisters are gravitating to alternate housing where several of them may live together.  On those campuses where sorority chapter houses are not as common and/or a sorority does not physically have a chapter house, it has been common for some of the sorority sisters to secure housing together.

Irrespective of the reason, the number of “living arrangements” outside of a traditional chapter house is increasing and are being referred to and/or being considered by the campus community as the “X Sorority” chapter house.  We refer to these locations as unofficial houses.

These unofficial houses pose a number of problems to the national organizations and, ultimately, to the insurance coverage.  The concerns include the following:

  • Unofficial houses are not owned by the women’s fraternity/sorority and are typically less safe
  • Residents do not believe that the rules of the organization extend to the housing arrangement, as they would argue that the situation is just a few sorority sisters securing housing on their own
  • In the absence of having an actual chapter house and with the majority of the residents being affiliated with one specific sorority, it is not too big of a leap of logic for the campus to construe this residence as the legitimate sorority chapter house

We have seen a significant increase in claims that are coming from those locations that are not the actual chapter house, but instead from these unofficial houses.

We have identified this concern to your national leadership.  We also know that, as a volunteer, you are more apt to be aware of the existence of these types of housing arrangements.  Should you have one of these types of arrangements on your campus, we would ask that you bring it to the attention of your leadership.  Upon their review, we have encouraged them to involve us, if needed, in addressing the housing situation specifically.

[See attached article from Fraternal Law for additional information]

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Scenario

A member of a sorority was injured while climbing onto the sorority’s homecoming float. The member was walking along side the float along with fourteen other members.  The float was towards the back of the parade and was starting to fall behind. The walkers were instructed to board the float to speed up the procession. It is our understanding that a police officer may have been the one who told the women to board the float. While the member was boarding the float, the driver accelerated. The member’s foot became entangled in the wheel where her body became locked in the axle of the trailer. It is alleged that the member was drug for 110 feet. The member suffered severe and permanent injuries due to the accident. The member’s medical bills are in excess of $300,000.

A lawsuit was filed naming the University, the City, the driver of the float and the Sorority. An investigation is ongoing.  The young man who drove and owned the truck and the trailer in which the float was built on has liability limits of $100,000. There was not a contract in place with the driver of the truck. The current reserve is $400,000. This reserve may change as additional facts are discovered.

Issues to discuss

  1. How do your policies address events such as the one described above? What policies were broken in the above described claim? What policies would have prevented this claim from happening?
  2. What additional risk management policies should have been in place to minimize the likelihood of a claim like this happening again?
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Scenario

A member was injured at a chapter event when she stepped on a piece of glass that was on the dance floor and sustained a laceration to her foot. There was a sign posted at the bar stating that no glass bottles were to be taken onto the dance floor. It was discovered that the chapter did not have a chaperone at the event even though their manual stated that a chaperone should be present at all events. It was argued that had the chapter followed its own policy and had a chaperone at the event, the chaperone would have been there to enforce the rule of no glass bottles on the dance floor.

Result

While there were other factors involved, the argument regarding the chapter not following their policy factored into the decision, and the insurance company settled the claim on the organization’s behalf for $187,500.

Issues to discuss

  1. What are your policies regarding chaperones?
  2. Are your policies reviewed on a regular basis to make sure they are up to date?
  3. When policies are not followed, they can be used against you.
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Scenario

The chapter hired two buses to take their members and guests to and from an event. One bus had security, but the senior bus did not. On the senior bus, a fight broke out between two members’ boyfriends. One of the young men sustained a broken nose, as well as other facial fractures during the fight. It was confirmed by using Facebook that alcohol was being consumed on the bus.

Result

The claimant’s attorney alleged that the chapter did not provide the property security. He argued that if one bus had security, the other one should also and if it did that his client would not have been injured in a fight. The claim settled for $37,500.

Issues to discuss

  1. What are your policies regarding security?
  2. What are your policies regarding transportation to and from events?
  3. What policies would have prevented this incident from occurring in the first place?
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Every year, up to 20 percent of the population in the United States contracts the flu virus. The effects of flu vary
from mild symptoms to severe illness and complications, including death. Disease experts have calculated that
once every 30 to 40 years, pandemic influenza affects people globally, resulting in a significantly greater number
of illness and deaths than the annual flu.

How flu spreads

Flu viruses spread in respiratory droplets through person-to-person or other close contact. Most adults can infect
others beginning one day before symptoms develop and from up to five to seven days after becoming sick. This
means that you can pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
Human influenza viruses generally can survive on surfaces for two to eight hours.

Good health habits

Maintaining good health habits is important to keep you healthy and to minimize the spread of the influenza
virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations suggest exercising
regularly, getting enough rest and eating healthful balanced meals, in addition to a number of precautions to help
protect yourself and others from transmitting the flu. These precautions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Keep your distance from others to help protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home when you are sick. Prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands often and rub hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. If you do not have access to water and soap, use alcohol-based gels or hand sanitizers.
  • Cover your mouth and nose. Use a tissue when coughing or sneezing to help prevent spreading the virus or, as the CDC suggests, sneeze or cough into your arm or sleeve. Viral droplets are less likely to spread doing this than coughing into your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

For additional information visit the CDC website. The information provided in this document by Travelers is intended for use as a guideline and is not intended as, nor does it constitute, legal or professional advice. Travelers does not warrant that adherence to, or compliance with, any recommendations, best practices, checklists, or guidelines will result in a particular outcome. In no event will Travelers, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, be liable in tort or in contract to anyone who has access to or uses this information for any purpose. Travelers does not warrant that the information in this document constitutes a complete and finite list of each and every item or procedure related to the topics or issues referenced herein. Furthermore, federal, state, provincial, municipal or local laws, regulations, standards or codes, as is applicable, may change from time to time and the user should always refer to the most current requirements. This material does not amend, or otherwise affect, the provisions or coverages of any insurance policy or bond issued by Travelers, nor is it a representation that coverage does or does not exist for any particular claim or loss under any such policy or bond. Coverage depends on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss, all applicable policy or bond provisions, and any applicable law.

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CDC recommends a three-step approach to fighting influenza (flu). The first and most important step is to get a flu vaccination each year. But if you get the flu, there are prescription antiviral drugs that can treat your illness. Early treatment is especially important for the elderly, the very young, people with certain chronic health conditions, and pregnant women. Finally, everyday preventive actions may slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.

How does the flu spread?

Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. Many other viruses spread these ways too.People infected with flu may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you know you are sick as well as while you are sick. Young children, those who are severely ill, and those who have severely weakened immune systems may be able to infect others for longer than 5-7 days.

What are everyday preventive actions?

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you (or your child) stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
  • If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice. This may include information about how to increase distance between people and other measures.

What additional steps can I take at work to help stop the spread of germs that can cause respiratory illness, like flu?

  • Find out about your employer’s plans if an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs and whether flu vaccinations are offered on-site.
  • Routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, including doorknobs, keyboards, and phones, to help remove germs.
  • Make sure your workplace has an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes.
  • Train others on how to do your job so they can cover for you in case you or a family member gets sick and you have to stay home.
  • If you begin to feel sick while at work, go home as soon as possible.

For more information, please visit www.cdc.gov/flu or call 1-800-CDC-INFO

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A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population begins to cause serious illness and then spreads easily person-to-person worldwide. Planning for pandemic influenza by business and industry is essential to minimize a pandemic’s impact.

The risk for infection can be reduced through a combination of actions. No single action provides complete protection, but a combined approach can help decrease the likelihood of transmission. To aid in pandemic contingency planning, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has suggested the following steps that every employer can take to reduce the risk of exposure to pandemic influenza in their workplace, which also applies to our chapter facilities:

  • People who are sick with an influenza-like illness (ILI) (fever plus at least cough or sore throat and possibly other symptoms like runny nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea) should stay home and keep away from others as much as possible, including avoiding travel, for at least 24 hours after fever is gone. (Fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Encourage employees and members to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or with hand sanitizer if there is no soap or water available. Also, encourage employees and members to avoid touching their noses, mouths, and eyes.
  • Encourage employees and residents to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or to cough and sneeze into their upper sleeves if tissues are not available. Employees and members should wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer after they cough, sneeze, or blow their noses.
  • Employees should avoid close contact with their coworkers and residents. They should avoid shaking hands and always wash their hands after contact with others. Even if employees wear gloves, they should wash their hands upon removal of the gloves incase their hand(s) became contaminated during the removal process.
  • Provide extra tissues and trash receptacles and a place to wash or disinfect hands for all guests, employees, and residents.
  • Keep work surfaces, desks, computers, and other frequently touched surfaces clean. Use only disinfectants registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and follow all directions and safety precautions indicated on the label.
  • Discourage employees and members from using other people’s phones, desks, laptops, or other tools and equipment.
  • Minimize situations, such as in a meeting, where groups of people are crowded together. Use e-mail, phones, and text messages to communicate with each other. When meetings are necessary, avoid close contact by keeping a separation of at least 6 ft, where possible, and assure that there is proper ventilation in the meeting room.
  • Reduce or eliminate unnecessary social interactions, which can be very effective in controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Reconsider all situations that permit or require employees, members, and visitors (including family members) to enter the facility. Chapters may want to consider restricting/eliminating guest visitation options during an influenza pandemic.
  • Promote healthy lifestyles, including vaccination for seasonal flu, good nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation. A person’s overall health impacts their body’s immune system and can affect their ability to fight off, or recover from, an infectious disease.

More detailed planning information is available from OSHA in Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic (OSHA 3327-02N). Information is also available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) at PandemicFlu.Gov. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a planning guide for small businesses.

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The Indiana State Police have released a series of tips to help residents avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.  Carbon monoxide (CO2) is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that does not cause irritation to the eyes or throat.  Often victims don’t realize they are inhaling toxic gas until they become ill.  More than 500 people die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure:

  • Flu-like symptoms with no fever
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular breathing
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Feeling better after leaving a particular structure but feeling ill upon return

Safety measures to prevent exposure:

  • Purchase a carbon monoxide detector for every level of your home.  Don’t ignore the alarm when it is activated.  Open the windows and leave the structure until the carbon monoxide has been located.
  • Have your traditional heating system inspected annually.
  • Never warm up a motor vehicle in a garage even if a door is open; have your vehicle checked for exhaust leaks.
  • Be sure all fuel burning sources like has and wood stoves, fire places and portable heaters are working properly and their flues or chimneys have been inspected.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for home heating.
  • Never use gasoline or diesel powered electric generators in an enclosed area.
  • If the structure you are in is air tight and lacks ventilation, crack open a window for fresh air.

Excerpted from IndyStar.com

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