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Yale frat death: 86 lawsuits filed in tailgating death, fatal crash during game

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A Yale frat death dating back to 2011 has led to at least 86 recent lawsuits being filed against both former and current members of a popular fraternity at the prestigious Yale University. The tragic death was caused by a tailgating crash that occurred during a football game in which Yale was playing against Harvard at home in New Haven. Yahoo News! describes the details on these multiple lawsuits involving criminal charges this Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014.

The Yale frat death occurred when a U-Haul truck that was transporting a large number of beer kegs and on its way to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity tailgating arena not far from the Yale Bowl suddenly crashed and hit 30-year-old Nancy Barry, killing her. Two other women were also injured in the collision. The Yale student and Sigma Phi Epsilon member that was driving the U-Haul truck at the time, Brendan Ross, was allowed to participate in a probation program that allowed the heavy criminal charges set against him to be lifted.

However, the devastated Barry family as well as a family of one of the injured female students, Sarah Short of Yale, have continued to sue both Ross and the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter, as well as Yale University itself. They seek respective damages for the killing of Nancy Barry and the injuries that Short sustained from the accident. These lawsuits are still pending.

Now, these plaintiffs’ attorneys and the Yale frat death have returned to the spotlight this week. According to the press release on the matter:

“Prosecutors have confirmed that they filed new lawsuits this Dec. 30 against 86 former and current members of the Yale chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon after the national chapter of the fraternity, based in Richmond, Va., and its insurer disclosed part of their defense — that the national chapter wasn't responsible for the Yale chapter's actions, didn't sanction the tailgating event at the game and its insurance company doesn't cover non-fraternity events.”

This particular Yale chapter is a voluntary member association, and according to the lawyer for the Barry family, Paul Edwards, is not formally organized or incorporated in a legal format as well as not being self-insured. He added that these factors encouraged the lawsuits to be re-filed against both current and former members of the fraternity, including those who were involved when the fatal crash took place.

Edwards added that charging the new lawsuits was "a move that we were forced to take by the defense and the posturing of the national fraternity's lawyers. … 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."

After the Yale frat death and other two women injured in the accident, the ivy-league school immediately made its tailgating rules stricter. Under new fraternity and university law, kegs are not allowed at athletic events and similar venues. Also, only approved, licensed, and authorized vendors are allowed to drive large commercial vehicles or storage trucks onto campus events and games anymore as well.

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