Eighty-six former members of a Yale fraternity have been served with a multi-million-dollar lawsuit after a chapter member driving a U-Haul truck struck three people, killing one, at a football tailgate in 2011.
Brendan Ross, 23, a former student and member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, was driving that truck, which was carrying beer kegs when it slammed into a group of tailgaters in Nov. 2011. He's charged with negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.
The family of 30-year-old Nancy Barry, of Salem, Mass., who died after being struck, has filed a lawsuit against Yale, the national fraternity, the events security company, U-Haul and the individuals who rented the truck and got behind the wheel.
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But the national fraternity is absolving itself and the suit now falls on the shoulders of 86 former members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter at Yale.
Paul Edwards, the attorney who represents Barry’s family, said the national organization has all but abandoned its Yale chapter, arguing that it’s not legally responsible since the local chapter had not been incorporated and was a voluntary association.
Under state law, the local members are now liable.
“They did everything the fraternity asked of them and God forbid something unfortunate happens and the national just runs away from them,” Edwards said. “It’s ugly, and it’s unusual.”
Edwards said he believes the national organization will ultimately be held responsible for the tragedy. He doubts a trial will be held but says a settlement could still be in the distant future.
The attorneys for the national and local fraternities had not returned a request for comment at the time of publication.