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Liability Case Study: Homecoming Float Claim


A member was injured while climbing onto the sorority’s homecoming float. The member was walking along side the float with other members. The float was towards the back of the parade and was starting to fall behind. The walkers were instructed to board the float to speed up the procession. While the member was boarding the float, the driver accelerated. The member was wearing a toga that became entangled in the axle. The member’s body became locked in the axle of the trailer. It is alleged that the member was dragged for 110 feet. The member suffered severe and permanent injuries due to the accident.  

A lawsuit was filed naming the University, the City, the driver of the float and the Sorority. The young man who drove and owned the truck and the trailer in which the float was built on had liability limits of $100,000. The City was dismissed from the lawsuit and the University was on the verge of being dismissed based on sovereign immunity. The driver of the truck argued that he was acting as an agent of sorority and the sorority should be vicariously liable for his actions which were allowing individuals to sit in the truck and block the view of the trailer and accelerating before accounting for the whereabouts of the participants. Defense Counsel felt that there was a good chance the sorority would be found to be vicariously liable for the driver’s actions.  

The lawsuit settled during mediation for $1,500,000.   

Issues to discuss

  1. How do your policies address events such as the one described above? What policies were broken in the above described claim? What policies would have prevented this claim from happening?
  2. What additional risk management policies should have been in place to minimize the likelihood of a claim like this happening again?