Eighty six former members of the Yale fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon
are being sued over a November 2011 incident in Connecticut, in which a fraternity member
drove a U-Haul truck into three people, killing one of them. The incident
occurred in the tailgating area outside of the Yale-Harvard football game.
The driver accelerated the truck and swerved out of control, slamming
into the group of tailgaters. The driver was originally charged with negligent
homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving, but has apparently
reached an agreement to have all but the reckless endangerment charge dropped.
Family Suing Fraternity Members Instead of Fraternity Itself
The U-Haul was apparently carrying beer kegs into or out of the tailgating
area when it struck the three victims. Now, the family of the young woman
who was killed in the accident is suing 86 former members of the fraternity.
Normally, in a case like this, the national fraternity itself would be
held liable for any damages. However, the fraternity has absolved itself
of responsibility for the incident, essentially abandoning the Yale chapter.
And under Connecticut state law, the local Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter is
a voluntary organization and cannot be held liable for injuries or deaths
caused by its members.
According to state law, this leaves the 86 former members of the fraternity
to shoulder the burden of liability. The family’s attorney has stressed
that he does not think this situation is fair, with the national fraternity
organization running away from what should be its responsibility. But,
the local chapter had not been incorporated into the national fraternity,
and therefore is classified as a voluntary organization. Still, the attorney
believes the national organization will ultimately be held responsible,
one way or another. The family has also sued Yale, the events security
company, U-Haul, the driver, and the individuals who rented the truck.
Outcome of Criminal Case Could Influence Civil Litigation
According to court documents, the driver is no longer facing charges of
negligent homicide or
reckless driving, but instead is only dealing with a misdemeanor charge of first-degree
reckless endangerment. This may be the result of the driver’s participation
in a diversion program, in which he attends a rehabilitation program in
exchange for reduced or dropped charges. Still, if the driver is convicted
of reckless endangerment, this could assist the plaintiffs in their lawsuit
against the 86 former fraternity members. The conviction would be solid
evidence of the driver’s recklessness, and would allow the plaintiffs’
attorney to move on to showing the complicity of the 86 members in what
will already have been established as reckless activity.
What to Do if You Have Been Injured in a Traffic Accident
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a traffic accident,
whether on the roads or in a parking lot, you should contact a personal
injury attorneyimmediately. An attorney can review the facts of your case
and determine whether you have a viable claim. If so, they can help you
seek the compensation you deserve.