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Yale Frat Death: Family of Victim Sues Fraternity

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In 2011, Brendon Ross crashed a U-haul truck at a tailgating party before a Harvard-Yale football game when bringing beer kegs to the party; he attempted to rev the engine, but wound up speeding forward, instead. This lead to the death of one woman, named Nancy Barry, as well as the serious injuring of fellow student Sarah Short and Harvard employee Elizabeth Dernbach. He was quickly charged with negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving, but he faced no jail time; instead, he was given probation. Now, Barry’s family is taking action against the fraternity that Ross belonged to.

Ross was a member of the Yale chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon. After the incident, the national organization took steps to remove itself from the Yale chapter, effectively distancing itself from the lawsuits being aimed at it. Barry and Short’s families, both, are now suing 86 former and current members of the fraternity chapter.

The local chapter, rather than the national organization, is being charged because the national organization did not sanction the tailgating event, and its insurance company does not take responsibility for non-fraternity events. According to the Barry family attorney, Paul Edwards, the Yale chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon is voluntary and not organized in any legal way, and is thus not insured, either. These facts prompted the grieving families to aim their lawsuits at local members.

On the topic of this move, Edwards said, “It was a move that we were forced to take by the defense and the posturing of the national fraternity’s lawyers.” He continued, saying, “They are effectively cutting off its local chapter and members. I think that defense is bogus. It’s our claim that what happened at Yale two years ago was very clearly, definitively and obviously a Sigma Phi Epsilon-sponsored fraternity event.”

The lawsuits were filed on December 30th of 2013. Court dates have been neither determined or announced as of yet. Yale has tightened its tailgating rules since the event, no longer allowing large trucks or beer kegs on campus or at tailgating parties before games.

Image via YouTube.

Yale Frat Death: Family of Victim Sues Fraternity
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  • http://twitter.com/d4m_d33zy d33zy

    Wow, that seems like a pull todo. I understand their grief though.. any fund wise, taking kare of our loved ones after they past will held a pretty penny. From body to burial. But still, its quite a long shot to target certain members of a frat for party that someone died due to an accident that those people werent directly involved in. Now going after the driver of the truck to gather the funds, yes. Quite easier though I doubt 1 person/student has the amount of money they would be seeking.

  • Jennifer Finn

    When I was a student at Ohio University I had an incident with same fraternal organization. In the end they were put on probation and had to remove their letters for a certain amount of time. They were put back up for an alumni event violating probation from the school there were no consequences.

  • Jennifer Finn

    GL to the families

  • Clay

    This is a Classic Example of College “KIDS” acting irresponsible while drinking and Partying. I hope the Court finds for the Family “BIG TIME” and compensates ! The Frats need a WAKEUP call !

  • shannon

    WHAT??? Are they all Insane, or just STUPID?/? A bunch of colledge kids are having a party, one student makes a serious mistake that cost a life, and a lot of pain and sufferring. OK, sue HIM.. Not an entire group of people that had no control over the person behind the wheel. Homeowners insurance??? WTF?? He was driving-he hit them with a motorvehicle- seems to me he’s the only one legally liable for the incident. He should have gotten more than probation-and he should pay for his mistake- not someone else.

    I mean, really, if you have a party, and one of your guests whose bringing the after dinner wine happens to crash into some people pulling into your driveway-is that your fault-should your homeowners pay for that as well??

    The article didn’t say he was under the influence- maybe it was an accident

  • Daryl

    Thanks for the article Sarah. I should point out a couple of things.
    1. Using Paul Edwards’ logic, “It’s our claim that what happened at Yale two years ago was very clearly, definitively and obviously a Sigma Phi Epsilon-sponsored fraternity event.” , as a member of the fraternity in question, I must be held responsible as well. Nevermind I’m in St. Louis.

    2. It’s absolutely true. If a keg is used, by definition it can not be a Sig Ep sanctioned event. National is very clear about that from the beginning. National did exactly what it should do. If the chapter engages in this kind of behavior, the chapter charter should be stripped, with no chance of re-colonizing for at least five years after the incident.

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