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Suit against Yale frat for fatal car wreck can proceed

A tragic crash on Jan. 17, 2003, is the subject of ongoing litigation in Connecticut. And now it has clearance to keep on going. On the winter night in question, a group of Yale college students was returning from a fraternity pledge event in New York City when the SUV driven by a frat member crashed into a tractor-trailer. Four of the passengers in the SUV died as a result of the car accident. The estate of one of the victims has been seeking to sue the fraternity since 2005 and the Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled it can proceed.

Injuries stemming from a car accident can be serious, as we all know. One negligent driver can cause brain injury, medical expenses, death and substantial pain and suffering to so many others. But, it is not only a negligent driver who might be responsible for a serious crash. A car manufacturer, employer or owner of a vehicle that was involved may also be held liable for injuries.

For example, the estate of the victim of this 2003 crash alleges that the national fraternity and its Yale chapter are responsible for the incident. But it also has named the state, two road construction companies and the tractor-trailer trucking company.

Specifically, the estate alleges that the fraternity did not provide safe transportation to the boys on their way home from the event because it negligently chose a particular individual to drive the car. According to the National Transportation Safety Board's findings, the driver of the vehicle was sleep deprived after having just undergone Hell Week at the Yale fraternity.

A lower court judge had originally dismissed the suit against the fraternity, saying it didn't owe the pledges involved in the crash any "duty of care." But the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned that ruling, saying that while the fraternity had no duty to provide safe transportation to the boys, once it actually elected to do so, it assumed the duty, and the court said a jury should decide if the fraternity was negligent as a result.

The state of Connecticut permits victims of car accidents and their loved ones to recover compensation for injuries, medical expenses or loss of life stemming from such an incident. If the estate is successful in this suit, the victim's families may be able to receive at least some financial recompense for the loss of their loved ones.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Court: Fraternity can be sued in fatal Yale crash," The Associated Press, Sept. 19, 2012

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