Personal Injury Blog
Home » Family Members of Yale Crash Victim Settle Lawsuit

Family Members of Yale Crash Victim Settle Lawsuit

Back in 2003, four Yale University students were killed in a tragic highway crash during their return trip from a Delta Kappa Epsilon-sanctioned fraternity event held in New York City. Nine students packed into an SUV not designed to accommodate that many passengers.

Four of those students were killed when the SUV slammed into the back of a stopped 18-wheeler that had crashed earlier in a previous accident. The collision occurred on Interstate 95 in Connecticut. Following the accident, the family of one of the students killed filed a wrongful death lawsuit. In 2005, the Nicholas Grass’ family, of Holyoke, Massachusetts, filed a suit against the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity claiming that fraternity leaders failed to provide safe transportation home from the event. The suit also alleged that the driver, another Yale student and fraternity pledge, was sleep deprived and unfit to drive following hell-week.

The 2003 crash killed the SUV’s driver, 20-year-old Sean Fenton, of Newport Beach, California, along with three passengers — Grass, 19; Andrew Dwyer, 19, of Hobe Sound, Florida; and Kyle Burnat, 19, of Atlanta, Georgia. The five other passengers were injured in the crash, but survived.

Families Settle with Fraternity, Construction Companies

Earlier this month, the Grass family settled the lawsuit on undisclosed terms. Their lawsuit also contained complaints alleging that the State Department of Transportation and two unnamed construction companies were liable for unsafe conditions at the highway construction site where the semi-truck had crashed hours earlier.

The other victims’ families also filed suits against the state of Connecticut and the two construction companies. The families’ claims against the state were dismissed; however, both of the construction companies entered into confidential settlements with each of the victims’ families.

Prior to this month’s undisclosed settlement, attorneys representing Delta Kappa Epsilon argued in court documents that the fraternity should not be held liable for the students’ deaths because it could not have reasonably foreseen or prevented the “series of unfortunate events that led to the accident.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducted a thorough investigation of the accident and discovered plenty of primary causes, including poor road conditions, excessive speed, fatigue and lack of seat belt use.

Owner and Driver Liability Questions

In most states, adults over the age of 18 are typically responsible for the use of their own seat belts. However, in many circumstances, the vehicle’s driver/owner is generally responsible for the safety of his/her passengers, which includes obeying traffic laws and speed limits. If the SUV had been owned or rented by the fraternity, fraternity leaders may have shared some blame for assigning a driver who was fatigued or for failing to adhere to the SUV manufacturer’s maximum passenger limits.

Any assignment of blame and amount of the settlement remains undisclosed and is only known to the parties involved.

Authorities and state DOT officials regularly advise all motorists and passengers to wear seat belts at all times, and advise against driving while fatigued or exceeding vehicle occupancy limits.


Yale News: DKE faces suit for fatal 2003 crash

The Harvard Crimson: Yale Grieves For Four Students Killed in Crash



Avvo 5-Star Client Rating
Tampa Bay Trial Lawyers Association
Firm Partners have AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell
Board Certification from The Florida Bar
Members of the American College of Coverage Counsel
Featured in Tampa Magazine's Top Lawyers in 2023
Best Law Firms 2024 Award from Best Lawyers
Florida Legal Elite award
Florida Legal Elite Hall of Fame
National Trial Lawyers Top 100 award
Awarded "The Best Lawyers in America"
Recognized by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel as one of the nations top one percent in 2023.
Members of the American Board of Trial Advocates
Our attorneys are members of the Florida Justice Association