Published November 26. 2009 4:00AM
The family of the 20-year-old Connecticut College student who died March 7 when a van she was riding in was struck head-on by an alleged drunken driver has sued the Mohegan Sun nightclubs where the driver had been drinking.
Elizabeth Durante, a junior pre-med student from West Islip, N.Y., was thrown from the van, which was carrying her and other students to Boston's Logan International Airport, where they were taking a flight to Uganda for a humanitarian mission.
Durante's mother, Kathleen Hurley Durante, is bringing the wrongful death lawsuit against Patrick T. Lyons, permittee of the Ultra 88 and Lucky's Nightclubs, and against the club's financial backers, called Plan B LLC.
The suit does not name the driver, Navy machinist Daniel E. Musser, who is incarcerated on manslaughter charges.
"He's uninsured, if I'm not mistaken," said West Hartford attorney John D. Palermo, who is representing the Durante family.
Palermo said the nightclubs violated the dram shop laws by serving alcohol to Musser when he was already intoxicated. State police said Musser, who was stationed at the Naval Submarine Base and lived on Michelle Lane in Groton, was driving a Honda Accord the wrong way on Interstate 395 without headlights when it struck the van.
The dram shop law, which dates back to the 19th century in this state, imposes monetary penalties - currently up to $250,000 - for those who give alcohol to individuals who later cause damage or death.
A representative of the Lyons Group, the Boston-based organization that operates the two nightclubs and several others, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Musser, who is from Missouri, is being held at the Corrigan Correctional Institution on a $300,000 bond while his case is pending. The state has made an offer to resolve his case short of trial, and he is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 6 to let the prosecutor know whether he will accept the offer. He is charged with second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, second-degree assault with a motor vehicle, first-degree reckless endangerment, driving under the influence, driving the wrong way on a divided highway and driving without minimum insurance.