Fraternity Settles Lawsuit Over Fatal Tailgate Accident

Tailgating is an important part of football culture in Alabama and across the country.

These events can get rowdy, and there’s always a risk of possible injury. The University of Alabama has a host of tailgating rules to improve safety that include everything from  notices regarding proper electricity use on “The Quad” to limits when bringing dogs and other pets to such events. What they do not ban, unlike a growing number of schools: Beer kegs.

Among those schools corking the kegs on game day: Penn State, Arizona State, Michigan State, University of North Texas and The Ohio State University.

In Connecticut, Yale University has also banned kegs at tailgate events, an action that stems from a very specific – and tragic – event. In 2011, at the popular Yale-Harvard match-up, a fraternity brother driving a U-Haul packed with kegs on his way to tailgate with his “brothers” plowed into a row of pedestrians crossing the street. One of them, a 30-year-old artist and fashion designer, was killed. 

Recently, her family settled with the remaining defendants in their wrongful death lawsuit.

According to news reports and subsequent litigation, the incident happened outside the Yale Bowl, where students and fans were gathering outside the stadium for the traditional pre-game party. Using fraternity funds, the brothers had rented a U-Haul truck and then all pitched in to fill it with kegs they would consume at the tailgating party.

The brother who was driving the truck was impatiently making his way to the tailgate, but there were apparently lot of pedestrians in his way. He revved the engine in an effort to get them to move. But instead, the vehicle took off. The driver would later tell investigators he tried to hit the brake, but instead hit the gas pedal. The consequences were tragic. Several were injured- including a Harvard employee and a Yale student – and one woman was killed.

That prompted Yale to take action and ban kegs during tailgating events, and also limit commercial trucks on site to only those vendors pre-approved by the university. But the measure came to late for the victim’s family, who filed a lawsuit against a number of defendants, including:

  • Yale
  • U-Haul
  • The national chapter of the fraternity
  • The local chapter of the fraternity
  • The 80 active members of the fraternity, including the driver

The school, U-Haul and other defendants had already settled out-of-court as of last year, but claims against the fraternity and its members were still pending. Now, both sides announce a settlement agreement for a confidential amount that did not require defendants to concede liability.

As for the driver, he passed a sobriety test but was still charged with reckless driving. He was allowed to enter a program that will allow him to emerge with a clean criminal record once he successfully completes probation and community service.

An attorney for the victim’s family said while they are relieved to finally put the litigation behind them, whatever is gained financially is not going to bring this vibrant young woman back.

It’s reason enough for other school administrators to re-think their permissive policies toward student binge-drinking on campus.

Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.

Additional Resources:

Fraternity settles lawsuit over fatal tailgating accident at Yale-Harvard football game, Jan. 8, 2016, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:

Alabama Supreme Court Affirms $15 Million Dram Shop Verdict, Dec. 20, 2016, Montgomery Accident Lawyer Blog

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