Tailgate victim sues driver, U-Haul

A U-Haul swerved into the Yale Bowl’s D-Lot on Nov. 19, killing one woman and injuring two other people at the Harvard-Yale tailgate.
A U-Haul swerved into the Yale Bowl’s D-Lot on Nov. 19, killing one woman and injuring two other people at the Harvard-Yale tailgate. Photo by Charlie Croom.

Nearly five months after a U-Haul crash injured two women and killed another at the Harvard-Yale tailgate, one of the victims is suing the U-Haul Company of Connecticut and Brendan Ross ’13, the truck’s driver.

In a lawsuit filed with the New Haven Superior Court last week, Sarah Short SOM ’13, one of the accident’s survivors, claimed she had sustained a number of “severe painful and obvious injuries” from the crash and sued for at least $15,000 — the minimum amount necessary to file a case before the court, said Michael Stratton, her attorney. Though New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman said the police investigation is completed and under review in the state’s attorney’s office, the results have not yet been released to the public.

Stratton said he chose to file the lawsuit before the investigation’s findings become available in order to begin a case that will likely take two years to resolve.

“I don’t think this Ross person is a bad person or should go to jail, but he should take responsibility for what happened here,” Stratton said.

Stratton said he heard from Short that the family of Nancy Barry of Salem, Mass., who was killed in the crash, is also in the process of filing a lawsuit against Ross. Paula St. Pierre, Barry’s mother, declined to comment.

The crash occurred the morning of Nov. 19, when a U-Haul driven by Ross accelerated and swerved into the Yale Bowl’s D-Lot, killing Barry and injuring Short and Harvard employee Elizabeth Dernbach. Ross passed a field sobriety test on the scene and was taken to the New Haven Police Department for questioning.

Short severely injured her leg in the crash and required multiple surgical interventions.

The complaint accuses Ross and the U-Haul Company of Connecticut of negligence. Five potential causes of the crash are listed in the document, including the excessive speed of Ross’s driving, the fact that he never honked his horn and the working condition of the U-Haul, the last of which Stratton said was included because Ross’s lawyer stated in November that the accident occurred due to an “apparent vehicle malfunction.”

Hartman said the investigation’s results will only be released once the state’s attorney’s office determines whether to press criminal charges against Ross. Michael Dearington, Connecticut state’s attorney for the New Haven district, said his office will examine the results of the investigation “as soon as practically possible.” Hartman said he expected the process to take between four and six weeks, because the state’s attorney’s office has requested that several witness statements be transcribed.

William Dow ’63, Ross’s attorney, said he will represent Ross in any criminal cases that might arise from the investigation, but not in any civil lawsuits the victims file against Ross, including the one filed by Short. He added that incidents like Ross’s often result in several lawsuits.

Stratton said the civil case might expand to include accusations against Yale for the configuration of the Yale Bowl lots, which allow trucks to flow into pedestrian areas.

In response to the incident, Yale revised its tailgate regulations in January, banning kegs and box trucks from tailgates, creating of a vehicle-free student tailgating area and requiring that tailgates end by kick-off.

Stratton said he could not comment on the exact amount of money Short will receive if she wins the case.

“It’ll be determined one or two ways: either by a jury who makes that decision on their own or it’ll be what the market will bear in terms of negotiations,” Stratton said. “I can’t put a dollar value on the case right now.”

Ross and Short deferred comment for this article to their attorneys. Pete Sciortino, president of the U-Haul Company of Connecticut, said his company has cooperated with the police investigation but declined to comment on the civil case.

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