Yale Crash Victim’s Family Settles Lawsuit

By DAVE COLLINS | September 27, 2013

The family of one of four Yale University students killed in a 2003 crash on Interstate 95 in Connecticut has settled a negligence lawsuit against the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

The lawsuit filed in 2005 by the family of Nicholas Grass of Holyoke, Mass., was settled under undisclosed terms this month, according to court records.

The students were among nine packed into the SUV returning from a Delta Kappa Epsilon event in New York City when their vehicle slammed into a tractor-trailer that had crashed in an earlier accident. The lawsuit claimed fraternity leaders failed to provide safe transportation home from the event and the SUV driver, who was a Yale student and frat member, was sleep-deprived during the frat’s so-called hell week of alleged hazing of pledges.

The crash killed the SUV driver, Sean Fenton, 20, of Newport Beach, Calif., and three passengers – Grass, 19; Andrew Dwyer, 19, of Hobe Sound, Fla.; and Kyle Burnat, 19, of Atlanta. Grass and Burnat were pitchers on Yale’s baseball team.

Five other Yale students in the SUV were injured, including members of the university’s football team.

“Obviously it was a terrible tragedy, and the family is glad to put this behind them and move forward,” said attorney Marc Grenier, the administrator for Grass’ estate.

A message seeking comment was left for a lawyer for the fraternity Tuesday.

Lawyers for the fraternity said in court documents that Delta Kappa Epsilon shouldn’t be held liable because it couldn’t have foreseen the “series of unfortunate events” that led to the accident.

The lawsuit also claimed the state Department of Transportation and two construction companies were liable for alleged safety hazards at the highway construction site where the tractor-trailer crashed. Other victims’ families also sued the state and the two companies. Claims against the state were dismissed because of government immunity from lawsuits, while the construction companies entered into settlements, lawyers in the cases said.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident and found plenty of blame, including poor highway conditions, speeding, fatigue and lack of seat belt use.

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