SigEp responds to tailgate lawsuit

More than three months after a woman grievously injured in the 2011 Harvard-Yale tailgate crash filed suit against 86 current and former members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, the defendants have filed a formal response.

Filed in Connecticut Superior Court in New Haven, the response was submitted on behalf of 84 of the 86 SigEp members who were sued in December by Sarah Short SOM ’13 and the estate of Nancy Barry. Short was seriously injured and Barry was killed in November 2011 when a U-Haul truck, driven by Brendan Ross ’13, lost control on its way to the SigEp tailgate area at the Harvard-Yale game. In the responses, the SigEp members argued that they should not be held responsible for Short’s injuries and Barry’s death.

The responses — which replied to separate but nearly identical suits from Short and from Barry’s estate — were submitted by Wilton, Conn. attorney Jeremy Platek. Platek has been hired by Liberty Mutual, the insurer for the national SigEp fraternity, to represent 84 of the 86 defendants.

The responses argued that the 84 SigEp members did not have sufficient knowledge to address the specific accusations in Short’s complaint, which presented allegations primarily against Ross.

Joel Faxon, the attorney representing Short, dismissed the claims in the defendants’ answer.

“There is much legal sidestepping of the plaintiff’s factual claims,” Faxon said.

CEO of the national SigEp fraternity Brian Warren said he hopes the members will be absolved of responsibility.

He added that in the American judicial system “you have the right to sue anyone,” and that the first stages of a lawsuit frequently involve a large number of defendants.

“While it was initially disappointing that so many people were named as directly involved in the tragic accident, it is right that they are being represented and defended,” Warren said. “I think the case will play out and hopefully these members will be dismissed.”

Faxon told the News in January that suing the 86 SigEp members was a last resort after Short attempted to sue the national fraternity but encountered technical obstacles.

In addition to their response, the 84 SigEp members have filed a motion to consolidate their cases with Sarah Short v. Brendan Ross et al. That case, first filed in April 2012, pits Short against Ross, the national fraternity, Yale, U-Haul, Contemporary Service Corporation and Patrick Dolan ’13, who was president of the Yale SigEp chapter in November 2011.

“The allegations that are made in all of these cases arise from the same exact set of factual circumstances,” the motion read. “Consolidation will serve the interests of judicial economy and conserve resources by permitting all issues to be resolved in one, rather than two actions.”

An identical motion was also filed to consolidate the suit from the Barry estate into a similar case.

If granted, the motion would reduce the total number of suits filed by Short and the Barry estate from four to two.

Last week, U-Haul filed a memorandum opposing the consolidation of the two cases.

Yale has not filed any court documents supporting or opposing the consolidation. On Tuesday, University Spokesman Tom Conroy said Yale had nothing to add regarding the litigation beyond what it has filed in court.

University Vice President and General Counsel Dorothy Robinson and Patrick Noonan, the attorney representing Yale in the suits, referred all questions to Conroy.

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