At a 2011 rivalry football game between Harvard and Yale, a U-Haul carrying multiple beer kegs to the fraternity house hit three people, killing 30-year-old Nancy Barry, of Salem, Mass., who died shortly after being struck.
The driver of the U-Haul, 23-year-old Brendan Ross, is a former student and former member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. Ross had been charged with negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.
“I'm sober, I'm sober,” the then-21-year-old driver told police at the time of the accident. Ross has since entered a probation program that erased the criminal charges against him.
Barry’s family has named individual members of the fraternity in their multimillion-dollar lawsuit after the national chapter of the fraternity, based in Richmond, Va., distanced itself from the New Haven chapter. The unincorporated parent fraternity says they cannot be held liable because they have no oversight over the individual houses and did not sanction the event. Furthermore, the fraternity’s insurance company does not cover non-fraternity events.
A lawyer for the Barry family disagrees and feels the parent fraternity chapter should and will be held responsible.
“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 filing 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,” Edwards said. “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.”
According to FoxNews, Ross had "revved the U-Haul's engine in an effort to get pedestrians to move," but the vehicle took off, ramming into three pedestrians and killing Barry. Ross told police he tried to hit the brake but hit the gas pedal instead. Ross passed a field sobriety test after the accident and was cleared of any alcohol-related charges.
Since the accident, Yale has tightened its tailgating rules, banning kegs at university athletic events and barring large vehicles from the athletic grounds unless they are driven by authorized vendors.