Nightclub owners agree to $4.2 million settlement in wrong-way crash case

Connecticut College student Elizabeth Durante sits with children during a 2007 trip to Durban, South Africa. Durante was killed in a crash with an intoxicated driver in 2009. Her parents settled their lawsuit against nightclub owners on Thursday.
Connecticut College student Elizabeth Durante sits with children during a 2007 trip to Durban, South Africa. Durante was killed in a crash with an intoxicated driver in 2009. Her parents settled their lawsuit against nightclub owners on Thursday. Conn College photo

The parents of Connecticut College student Elizabeth Durante settled their wrongful death lawsuit against the owners of the Ultra 88 nightclub at Mohegan Sun Thursday for $4.2 million.

Durante, a 20-year-old aspiring medical student, had recruited fellow students for a humanitarian mission to Uganda during spring break in March 2009 and was en route to the airport when she was killed in a wrong-way collision on Interstate 395 that was caused by intoxicated nightclub patron Daniel Musser.

Durante's parents, Keith and Kathleen Durante of Islip, N.Y., had sued the club's Boston-based owners, Plan B LLC and the Lyons Group, and its permittee, Patrick Lyons, claiming the nightclub had acted recklessly and negligently.

The Durantes and attorneys involved in the case agreed they would not comment publicly on the settlement, the details of which were put on the record Thursday afternoon by Hartford Superior Court Judge William H. Bright Jr.

The judge released a jury that had listened to two days of evidence in the case before the parties agreed to the $4.2 million figure. In reaching the settlement in state court, the Durantes also agreed to release the nightclub backers from a case that is pending in Mohegan tribal court, according to a court transcript.

New London attorneys Robert I. Reardon Jr. and Kelly E. Reardon represented the Durantes. Attorneys Scott Behman, Frank Ganz and Domenick Secundo from the Wallingford law firm Behman Hambelton represented the club and its backers.

Musser, then a sailor stationed at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, had been drinking at Ultra 88 for several hours before he drove the wrong way out of the casino in the early morning hours of March 7, 2009. Musser's car collided head-on near Exit 79A on I-395 with a van carrying Durante and seven other students to Logan Airport.

Pretrial settlement talks were unsuccessful, so the sides selected a jury and testimony began Tuesday in Hartford Superior Court. Bartender Sarah Webster, who sold Musser several drinks at the nightclub before calling security to eject him for lewd behavior, had been on the witness stand for several hours when the settlement talks resumed.

Musser, who had a 0.13 blood alcohol level following the crash and is serving a 75-month sentence for second-degree manslaughter, was slated to testify on Friday had the trial continued.

Three other students and the van driver had also sued Ultra 88 and had settled their lawsuits during jury selection. The Durantes had initially sued Mohegan tribal officials, but a judge ruled they had sovereign immunity.

In late 2009, following the deaths of Durante and two others that occurred after patrons left the casino under the influence of alcohol, the tribe said it was expanding its measures to prevent drunken driving.

k.florin@theday.com

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