The government of Connecticut spent about $63 million from its adjudicated claims account for the 2018-2019 fiscal year to settle lawsuits, pay judgments and cover legal fees in cases that had sometimes lasted years.
State records show about 800 entries of payouts during that period from the account, shown as a line item from the General Fund. Of the $63 million, 93 percent went toward six major cases.
Here’s a spending breakdown.
Messier v. Southbury Training School
This suit resulted in $2.7 million in attorney fees and costs for plaintiff Richard Messier, whose counsel included Frank Laski of Boston-based Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, Simsbury-based solo practitioner David Shaw and New Haven-based solo practitioner David Rosen.
The lawsuit stems from a 1994 class action against Connecticut’s former Department of Mental Retardation, renamed the Department of Developmental Services, and the state’s social services and public health departments over alleged inhumane living conditions at a state-run training school for people with intellectual disabilities.
By consent decree, the training school has not had new residents in about 20 years, bringing its population to fewer than 150, down from about 450 residents, according to Shaw.
“The place will close eventually,” Shaw said.
While the attorney fees were paid, Deputy Attorney General Peggy Chapple said the case will remain open to ensure continued vigilance as long as there are residents in the facility.
SEBAC v. Rowland
This was the biggest litigation expense, with a $42.4 million payout to the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition to settle its class action lawsuit against former Gov. John Rowland.
The labor group sued Rowland, alleging he unfairly targeted 2,300 union members when he laid off state employees during a budget crisis. It moved for lost wages, missed promotions, and other economic damages, including unpaid vacation time and lost potential income for pension calculations.
The class consisted of every unionized state employee, or about 49,000 people, according to the deputy attorney general, Chapple, who teamed with Assistant Attorney General Alayna Stone to represent the state. About 3,000 of these members received compensation.
“We have spent the past three years calculating the damages,” Chapple told the Connecticut Law Tribune.
The case dates back to 2003 and dragged on for about 15 years. Many of the laid-off employees returned to work years later with settlement payments.
Stamford-based law firm Silver Golub & Teitell represented the plaintiffs, with partners David Golub and Jonathan Levine spearheading the litigation. Attorney fees for Silver Golub was not available at press time.
Horan v. State of Connecticut
The courts approved a $6.25 million settlement, awaiting Probate Court finalization after the Connecticut General Assembly signed off on the agreement.
The settlement stems from a 2007 lawsuit on behalf of Joseph Stavola and Jeanne Serocke and their young sons, James and William Stavola. A large tree fell on the car the four were traveling in along the Merritt Parkway, killing the parents and injuring the children.
The lawsuit alleged the state was negligent for failing to inspect, identify and remove the tree that was adjacent to the roadway and that the state should have known the tree posed a hazard to motorists.
The plaintiffs attorney is David Hill of Glastonbury-based David G. Hill & Associates.
Representing the state were attorneys within the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office.
Angeles v. Connecticut
The Connecticut General Assembly approved a $4.9 million settlement in Angeles v. Connecticut in its 2019 session, and the case is now closed.
The lawsuit stemmed from a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit by North Carolina resident Hugo Angeles against the state Department of Children and Families in the 2011 death of his 3-year-old daughter Athena.
Athena’s mother and the mother’s live-in boyfriend were sentenced to prison for beating the child to death, according to the Hartford Courant. Hugo Angeles’ lawsuit alleged DCF failed to remove Athena and her sister from an abusive home weeks before the girl’s death.
The plaintiffs attorney was Robert Reardon Jr. of The Reardon Law Firm in New London, while the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office represented the state.
World v. Semple
Wayne World, a former prisoner, settled his medical neglect lawsuit against the state and Scott Semple, the head of Connecticut’s Department of Correction, for $1.3 million.
World’s attorneys maintained he was misdiagnosed for nearly three years with psoriasis, when he actually had an acute case of skin cancer. The misdiagnosis, his attorneys said, was neglectful and made World’s condition worse over time. World received a second bone marrow transplant in 2018 and went through an aggressive chemotherapy regiment.
World, who was released early from prison in May 2018 due to his medical condition, was serving a 17-year prison term for manslaughter.
Representing the state were attorneys from the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office.
DCF Court Monitor
Part of the state’s spending— $1,082,693—went toward the Department of Children and Families court monitor. Connecticut has been under a federal court monitor since 1992 and the payments are to continue the monitor and to ensure compliance, according to McClure.