Family of Yale Student Killed in Crash after Hazing Settles Lawsuit
The family of one of four Yale students killed in a post-hazing crash on Interstate 95 in 2003 has settled its negligence lawsuit against the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
Nicholas Grass was killed when he was riding in an SUV along with eight other students. They were returning from a DKE event in New York City when the vehicle struck a tractor-trailer that had crashed earlier.
Grass’s parents claimed that the fraternity leaders had failed to provide safe transportation home for the students. The SUV’s driver, a Yale student and frat member who had been at the event, was allegedly sleep-deprived after a “hell week” of hazing.
The fraternity had argued that it wasn’t liable because the “series of unfortunate events” that led to the accident weren’t foreseeable.
The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board showed that the accident was caused by poor highway conditions, speeding, and lack of seatbelt use as well as fatigue.
New Jersey has also seen several fraternity-related vehicle and alcohol deaths.
In 1979, a pledge at Rutgers died in an auto accident after a drinking bout at dawn. However, university officials ruled that this drinking was voluntary and not hazing.
In 1988, at Rider College, a Theta Chi pledge died in a car filled with other pledges and a “kidnapped” chapter member. The 19-year-old driver received a one-year sentence for speeding.
In 2011, a New Jersey Superior Court denied the right of the Rider Phi Kappa Tao fraternity to assert the defense of “charitable immunity” in a case involving the 2007 death of a freshman pledge, Gary DeVercelly, Jr.
DeVercelly, then 18, died after a fraternity event at which he consumed enough alcohol to raise his blood alcohol level to .426 percent. In New Jersey, the blood alcohol level for drunk driving is .08 percent, so this was more than five times the legal limit.