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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

State Court Gets Suit Against Stew Leonard Sr.

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Westporter Stew Leonard Jr. said today that a federal judge’s ruling that the wrongful death civil lawsuit against his father and brother be heard in Bridgeport Superior Court instead of a federal one “does not affect the merits of the case.”

WestportNow.com Image
The 70-foot Stew’s Special which was hit by a “rogue wave.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant ruled Monday that the civil case should be heard in state Superior Court in Bridgeport despite Leonard Sr.‘s claim that the it was a “death on the high seas” case.

Barbara Speranza, widow of Robert Speranza, a 73-year-old former Westporter who died after being swept off Stew Leonard Sr.‘s boat by a 12-foot-high “rogue wave” in the Caribbean on Aug. 16, 2011, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Leonard and his son Tom in March 2012. (See WestportNow March 7, 2012)

“This is a difficult time for our family as Bob was a close friend for more than 40 years,” Leonard Jr. said today. “We not only lost a great family friend, but I almost lost my brother, too.”

According to reports at the time, Leonard Sr., Speranza, Leonard’s son Tom and the boat’s captain Martjin Haasdit had set out at 6 a.m. in Leonard’s 70-foot custom powerboat dubbed Stew’s Special. Leonard commissioned the $4.62 million craft three years ago, according to the Robb Report.

When the wave crashed into the boat, smashing its windshield, Tom Leonard was thrown against the back of the boat while Speranza was thrown overboard. A rescue boat transferred the victims to a hospital in Tortola where Speranza died.

“He kept going from room to room, one where my brother Tommy was conscious and had a number of stitches and bruises, and the other where, Bob was unconscious,” Leonard Jr. said shortly after the accident.

At first the doctors managed to get Speranza’s pulse started and his breathing going again, but shortly afterwards he died

When the suit was filed, Joel T. Faxon of Stratton Faxon Law Firm representing Speranza, stated “reckless operation of the vessel caused Robert Speranza to be violently tossed about inside the boat, inflicting severe head and spinal injuries, and then ejected from the craft into the Caribbean Sea, resulting in Robert’s death.”

Regarding Leonard Sr.‘s claim the day of the accident that Stew’s Special had been hit by a rogue wave, Faxon said, “Who knows?”

“They should not have been out there,” he said in an interview March 7, 2011. “It was extremely dangerous.”

In that same interview he would not say how many millions his client is pursuing in punitive damage. He did say, however, that in the past he won a wrongful maritime death lawsuit with a $10 million award. That case involved the death of a woman on a yacht rammed by a coal barge, he said.

Faxon added that Barbara Speranza losing “her soul mate of 53 years” forced her to sell the Ocean Club, the St. Maarten resort her husband owned and operated until his death. The loss of the resort, Faxon said, would figure into the award, which a jury would have to decide.

Posted 02/19 at 11:24 PM

Comments:     Comment Policy

Guy goes for boat ride with friends, wave comes along and takes him away; why the hell is the boat owner in any way responsible.

Gold digging law suit at best.

Posted by Daniel Katz on February 20, 2013 at 11:40 AM | #

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