Family Sues State In Death Of Couple In Merritt Parkway Crash In Westport

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A fallen tree blocks a lane of the Merritt Parkway in Norwalk.
A fallen tree blocks a lane of the Merritt Parkway in Norwalk. Photo Credit: File

WESTPORT, Conn. – The relatives of a couple killed in front of their two boys while driving on the Merritt Parkway in 2007 are suing the state of Connecticut over the deaths, according to the Hartford Courant.

Relatives of physician Joseph J. Stavola and attorney Jeanne C. Serocke-Stavola filed the lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court, according to the Hartford Courant.

The Stavola family was driving south on the parkway on June 9, 2007, in their Volvo SUV  when a pine tree 35 feet from the roadway fell and crashed through the Stavola’s windshield, killing both parents in front of their two sons, who were 7 and 9 at the time.

The delay in filing the lawsuit was caused in part by a Connecticut state law that requires plaintiffs to first request the “sovereign immunity” be waived by the Connecticut claims commissioner. The immunity is granted to the state government to protect it from being sued.

Legal papers presented in a 2012 court hearing show that damages sought include $6 million on behalf of Joseph Stavola’s estate, who was 46 when he died; $5 million on behalf of Jeanne C. Serocke-Stavola’s estate, who was 44 when she died; and $2 million each for sons James and William Stavola, who are now in their teens, the Courant said.

Joseph’s brother, and guardian of James and William, John Stavola of Glastonbury, filed the suit with James Horan, executor of the couple’s estates.

Read the full story here at the Hartford Courant website. 

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I agree Nancy. We have become such a litigious society, and that drum beat seems to be never ending regardless of the mere happenstance of a tree falling, which as you said, can happen at any given time. This is truly a tragedy, but that's what insurance is for, not lawsuits.

A tragic story! What a shame such greed is coming out of it. A tree falling on a vehicle can happen anywhere, with all the trees in Connecticut the State can't possibly look at each and every tree and decide if it should be taken down. This is a case of pure and ugly greed, how sad.