A fraternity at the esteemed Yale University is facing charges after a car accident in 2011 left one woman dead and seriously injured two others. The lawsuit against the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity was filed in 2013 by the families of the victims. After years of waiting, the case is finally heading to trial.
According to reports, members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon were heading to a tailgating event for a Yale vs. Harvard football game that was taking place on November 19th, 2011. Members of the fraternity were driving to the event in a U-Haul truck that contained kegs when the driver of the vehicle, Brendon Ross, lost control of the truck. It was not made immediately clear what caused Ross to lose control at this time. Police responding to the scene have stated that Ross accelerated into a crowd of pedestrians in the area shortly before the U-Haul struck another truck nearby. The pedestrians had been gathered in an area typically used for tailgating outside of the Yale Bowl. At some point during the accident, Ross struck and killed Nancy Barry of Salem, Massachusetts. He also seriously injured two other women, one of whom was a student at Yale at the time by the name of Sarah Short. The two victims were treated for their injuries.
The families of Nancy Barry and Sarah Short want to hold the fraternity responsible for the actions of Brendon Ross. Brendon Ross entered a probation program following the accident which therefore absolved him of criminal charges. The families of Barry and Short wanted to sue Ross, Yale University, the national chapter for Sigma Phi Epsilon, and the U-Haul company for damages. The lawsuits for these are still currently pending. The lawsuit against Sigma Phi Epsilon includes charges against not only Brendon Ross, but all 86 members of the fraternity. Some of the 86 members included in the lawsuit were former members and some are still currently members of Sigma Phi Epsilon.
The national chapter for this particular fraternity is based out of Richmond, Virginia. They indicated through their insurer that they were not responsible for the Yale chapter’s actions that resulted in the death of Nancy Barry. They specified that contrary to reports, they did not provide a sanction for the tailgating event taking place at the time of the accident and that furthermore, their insurance company would not cover non-fraternity events at the time of accidents or other offenses.
The Yale chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon is an independent entity—they are listed as a voluntary association, and they are not organized or incorporated in any legal way previously stated. Paul Edwards, the attorney representing Nancy Barry’s family in this case, has indicated that he has definitive reason to believe that the tailgating event had been thrown by the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and therefore its members should be held responsible for the horrific events that unfolded during their tailgate. Just last week a judge from Waterbury ruled in favor of Nancy Barry and Sarah Short’s family. The lawyer for the fraternity was listed as Jeremy Platek, who is currently representing nearly all of the 86 members of the fraternity charged in the lawsuit. Following the judge’s ruling in favor of the families, Platek could not be immediately reached for further comment.
Additional information and quotes may be found at the following links: http://www.pressherald.com/2014/01/16/yale_fraternity_members_face_lawsuit_in_fatal_tailgate_crash_/