Jury awards $15.6M in fatal fall case

NAUGATUCK — The family of a 24-year-old Stratford man who died after falling from a fourth-story window during a fight at a house party in 2013 was awarded nearly $15.6 million last week in a lawsuit against three defendants.

The fight at Stephanie Dwyer’s apartment at 8 Pond St. broke out over a dispute over a game of beer pong, witnesses told the court.

In the turmoil, several men involved swung at one another with beer bottles, fists and glass from fish tank, witnesses said. At one point, Dwyer told the court that Salomon Martinez smashed a computer monitor over her head.

The fight ended with Matthew Chandler and Kyle Gonzalez chasing Salomon Martinez up the stairs and into a child’s bedroom. Chandler and Gonzalez tried to break down the door. At some point, Salomon Martinez plummeted out of the window and suffered blunt trauma and organ failure. He died from his injuries about two weeks later.

Chandler and Gonzalez were convicted of manslaughter and conspiracy to commit first-degree assault. Chandler was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 10 years special parole and Gonzalez was sentenced to 15 years in prison, followed by five years of probation, as part of a plea deal.

Salomon Martinez’s mother, Yolanda Martinez, sued Chandler, Gonzalez and Dwyer for medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering on behalf of her son’s estate.

In the complaint, Yolanda Martinez blamed Chandler and Gonzalez for pushing and kicking her son out of the window and blamed Dwyer for providing alcohol to underage people, including Gonzalez and Chandler, who were 20 at the time, and failing to stop the fight. Most of the guests, including Salomon Martinez, were using cocaine during the party, Dwyer said in court documents. She said she tried to kick everybody out of the house when the fight broke out, but no one listened to her.

“Plaintiff’s injuries and losses were reasonably foreseeable because there had already been one assault reported that day and there was a lengthy history of prior assaults, disturbances of the peace, invitees being endangered necessitating police involvement and other similar incidents during prior gatherings of this nature at 8 Pond St.,” the complaint alleged.

The complaint initially named the borough of Naugatuck and apartment building owners Stephen King and Mark Shinagel as defendants in the lawsuit, but they were dropped.

A jury found that Dwyer caused about $752,000 in economic damages and $3.9 million in non-economic damages. The jury found that Gonzalez caused about $752,000 in economic damages, $3.9 million in non-economic damages, and $2.9 million in punitive damages. Chandler was found to have caused about $376,000 in economic damages, $1.9 million in non-economic damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

Yolanda Martinez’ lawyer could not be reached for comment Tuesday.