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Settlement talks interrupt Durante wrongful death trial

By Karen Florin

Publication: The Day

Published January 31. 2013 4:00AM

Testimony came to a halt Wednesday as settlement talks resumed at the wrongful death trial of Connecticut College student Elizabeth Durante.

No settlement had been reached as of 5 p.m., when Hartford Superior Court closed for the day. Jurors were told to report to court today.

Keith and Kathleen Durante, the parents of the 20-year-old aspiring medical student who died in a head-on collision on Interstate 395 on March 6, 2009, are suing the owners and backers of the Ultra 88 nightclub at Mohegan Sun for negligence and recklessness.

Navy sailor Daniel Musser had consumed several beers and mixed drinks at the club before exiting the wrong way out of a casino parking garage, entering the highway in the wrong direction and colliding head-on with a van carrying Durante and her friends to Logan Airport in Boston.

Three other students and the van driver had also sued the nightclub but settled their cases during jury selection.

The Durantes' attorney, Robert I. Reardon Jr., had questioned Ultra 88 bartender Sarah Webster for several hours while showing surveillance photos of her serving drinks to Musser when the settlement talks resumed between the plaintiffs and attorneys for Plan B LLC, the Lyons Group and Patrick Lyons, the managing shareholder and permittee of the club.

Musser had been celebrating his 24th birthday at the casino. After consuming beer, mixed drinks and vodka and tequila shots, Webster ordered him ejected from the casino.

Musser slept in his car for about an hour before leaving the casino and causing the crash. His blood alcohol level was 0.13 percent after the crash, according to police. The legal limit for driving is 0.08. He pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and is serving a 75-month prison sentence.

In his opening statement to jurors Wednesday, Scott Behman, attorney for the nightclub, said that Musser was "stone sober" when he left the club and held up a picture of him that he said was taken moments before he left the club. He said there was not "one shred of evidence" to prove the club had acted recklessly.

Reardon had obtained Musser's receipts from the bar along with the surveillance footage. He asked Webster, the bartender, whether she had followed the procedures she learned during drinking safety courses. She denied selling Musser shots of tequila while he was still consuming a beer and said she didn't notice any changes in his behavior.

k.florin@theday.com

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