A hyped college football match between two bitter rivals. A rowdy 80-member fraternity preparing to tailgate the game. A U-Haul truck full of beer kegs. A 30-year-old artist and fashion designer who was simply crossing the street.
All of these collided tragically in 2011. It ended with the death of that 30-year-old woman, who was struck by the U-Haul truck when one of the fraternity members, on his way to tailgating at the Yale-Harvard football game, tried to rev the engine to get pedestrians to move out of his way faster. Instead, he stepped on the gas. Several pedestrians were struck. This woman died of her injuries. The case resulted in Yale University banning kegs at athletic events and imposing restrictions on tailgate parties, including disallowing all large commercial vehicles and box trucks from university lots unless driven by a pre-approved, authorized vendor.
Now, The Guardian reports the family of the woman has settled its lawsuit against the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. The amount of that settlement has not been disclosed. Defendants in the case included:
The national Sigma Phi Epsilon office;
- Yale chapter of the fraternity;
- The 80 individual fraternity members at the time of the crash;
- Yale University;
- Other defendants.
All defendants except those connected to the fraternity had settled much earlier. This agreement now puts an end to all pending litigation.
A wrongful death attorney for the family noted that while the bereaved were relieved to have this behind them, nothing was going to bring back this vibrant, special young woman who is now lost to them forever.
It may seem confusing to people that in this situation, anyone but the driver could be held responsible. But in this scenario, there are a number of various other liable parties because of the fact that he was acting in connection with a fraternity activity and he was driving a vehicle owned by someone else.
Owners of vehicles often can be held liable for injuries or damages caused by their use – even when they aren’t driving.
As far as the fraternity is concerned, it can be difficult in personal injury cases to take action against an organization that lacks a formal legal structure based on the actions of members because it’s not easy to apportion fault. Initially, the fraternity in this case denied responsibility. However, there have been a number of recent court decisions that have held fraternities can be responsible for the negligent actions of members, depending on the circumstances in which injury occurred. Vicarious liability allows those who were not directly involved but part of the same organization to be held accountable.
In this case, plaintiffs asserted fraternity liability because the members were who were involved were acting as representatives. However, the fraternity had argued this was not a formally sanctioned event and its insurer denied all responsibility.
But where one individual is acting on behalf of the entire group, it may not matter that the activity wasn’t formally sanctioned.
The driver of the U-Haul had passed a field sobriety test at the scene, but was nonetheless charged with reckless driving and negligent homicide. In 2013, he was granted accelerated rehabilitation, which allowed him to have all pending charges erased upon completion of probation and 400 hours of community service.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Fraternity settles lawsuit over fatal accident at Yale-Harvard football game, Jan. 8, 2016, Associated Press
More Blog Entries:
Report: South Carolina Roads Were Deadly in 2015, Jan. 22, 2015, Charlotte Injury Attorney Blog