Woman Injured in Football Tailgating Accident Sues

By STEPHEN SINGER | April 17, 2012

A woman who was struck by a U-Haul truck that also killed a friend nearby in a tailgating area at the Harvard-Yale football game in November is suing the driver and U-Haul for more than $15,000.

The truck was being driven too fast at the New Haven site, was not under proper control and was unsafe, Sarah Short said in papers filed in New Haven Superior Court.

Police said the driver, Brendan Ross, was taking the U-Haul carrying beer kegs through a popular tailgating area before the football game when witnesses saw the vehicle turn a corner and speed up, striking three women, including 30-year-old Nancy Barry, of Salem, Mass., who was killed. She was a friend of Short’s.

Short said she suffered “severe and deep bone bruising” and a fracture, skin loss and other injuries. She says she had surgeries requiring skin grafts and other corrective measures.

Short, a Yale student from New Haven, said her injuries were caused by negligence of Ross and the U-Haul Company of Connecticut.

On Wednesday, her lawyer, Michael Stratton, cited comments made by the lawyer of the driver at the time of the accident, who said then that the vehicle malfunctioned.

At the time, U-Haul condemned the comments by the attorney, William Dow. The rental company said he had no basis to claim the vehicle malfunctioned. It said the vehicle was up to date on scheduled maintenance.

Ross passed a field sobriety test after the collision and police said he was cooperative in the investigation.

Dow said Wednesday he is not surprised by the lawsuit and that U-Haul and Ross are “adequately insured.” U-Haul did not return a call seeking comment.

Stratton said the lawsuit, which is the first to be filed in the accident, is justified.

“Sarah is one remarkable woman, but no way can that happen to any of us without a permanent scar on our psyche,” he said.

The lawsuit is initially seeking more than $15,000, but will demand more to pay Short’s medical bills that exceed $50,000. Stratton said filing the lawsuit will help him get details about what happened.

“We saw the lawsuit as a vehicle for the legal right to demand documents, photos and all information that presumably Yale police and New Haven police have,” Stratton said.

New Haven police recently turned over the findings of their investigation to State’s Attorney Michael Dearington, who said he wants the police to follow up on aspects of the investigation before he releases it.

“We’ll certainly move with as great a dispatch as possible,” he said.

As a result of the accident, Short said, she lost wages and time from school, continues to pay for medical care and rehabilitation “and suffered and will continue to suffer an overall impairment to her earning capacity and ability to carry on and enjoy all of life’s other activities.”

The truck then crashed into other U-Haul vans on the lot.

Elizabeth Dernbach, 23, a Harvard employee originally from Naples, Fla., also was injured.

Yale has since tightened tailgating rules. It bans kegs at university athletic events and other functions and oversized vehicles, such as box trucks or large commercial vehicles, from university lots at athletic events unless driven by a preapproved authorized vendor.

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