APNewsBreak: Suit vs former Conn. lawmaker settled

AP News
Posted: Jul 25, 2012 11:59 AM
APNewsBreak: Suit vs former Conn. lawmaker settled

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The family of a Connecticut woman found frozen to death in 2009 settled a lawsuit Wednesday against a former state lawmaker and a Cromwell tavern accused of negligent and reckless actions in the last hours of her life.

Relatives of Carol Jean Sinisgalli withdrew the lawsuit against former Cromwell state Rep. James O'Rourke and O'Leary's Digger McDuff's Tavern after resolving the dispute in private settlement talks, according a court document obtained by The Associated Press. Terms were not disclosed.

Lawyers in the case did not immediately return messages seeking comment. O'Rourke and the tavern owners had denied the allegations.

Sinisgalli's mother, Lorraine Sinisgalli, and a sister, Joan Sinisgalli, filed the lawsuit in February 2010, seeking at least $1 million in damages from both O'Rourke and the bar. The lawsuit said tavern employees were wrong to kick Sinisgalli out of the bar on a 14-degree night in January 2009, when she wasn't wearing a coat or shoes.

O'Rourke, who was at the tavern that night, tried to drive Sinisgalli to her home in Rocky Hill, but she abruptly got out of the car along the way in a dark and isolated area and became disoriented, the lawsuit said. The longtime Department of Motor Vehicles employee was found dead the next afternoon in several inches of snow near train tracks in Rocky Hill. She was 41.

The lawsuit said O'Rourke should have done something to prevent Sinisgalli from wandering off in freezing temperatures when he knew she was impaired.

O'Rourke, who was investigated by police but never charged in the death, said in a statement to authorities that he left the tavern at about the same time as Sinisgalli and she jumped into the back seat of his car. He said he was trying to drive her home when she became belligerent and knocked down his rearview mirror, garage door opener and glasses before jumping out of the car.

O'Rourke told police he didn't know Sinisgalli was barefoot.

"I believe that when she left the car, she was close to her home and knew where she was going," O'Rourke told police in his written statement.

The tavern's lawyer has said Sinisgalli's lawsuit had no merit and "the only one to blame is the woman herself."