Son of accident victim suing driver

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The sight line from a car stopped at the stop sign on Porter Hill Road looking left on Straitsville Road in Prospect is cut off by a home at 176 Straitsville Road. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
The sight line from a car stopped at the stop sign on Porter Hill Road looking left on Straitsville Road in Prospect is cut off by a home at 176 Straitsville Road. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

PROSPECT — An accident was expected, even predicted.

Straitsville Road and Porter Hill Road had drawn complaints because an old farmhouse blocks the view of oncoming traffic. An 84-year-old man stood at a town meeting and predicted someone would get hurt.

That man, Carmen Santoro, would die there when he collided with a car driven by a neighborhood teen with a drug and alcohol problem.

Now Santoro’s son, David Santoro, is suing the teen driver, who was not held criminally responsible for Santoro’s death.

David Santoro wrote to Mayor Robert Chatfield in 2012 expressing his concerns about the intersection.

More than a year after the accident, there still is no stop sign, mirror or sign to warn drivers of the blind intersection.

Chatfield is waiting for the state police to finish their accident investigation.

“Until I hear that the state police investigation is complete, I’m not able to comment on anything to do with that,” he said. “I have not heard anything more since that tragic day.”

Police said Corey Lister, then 19, was driving home drunk in his father’s 2012 Nissan Sentra down Straitsville Road on July 26, 2014, in the middle of the afternoon.

Santoro, who lived on Porter Hill Road, a small road of just a few homes off Straitsville Road, was pulling onto Straitsville Road when the cars collided, police said.

In Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury after the accident, Lister told police he never saw Santoro’s 2000 Ford Taurus until it was too late. He told police he was going about 40 mph. The posted speed limit is 30 mph.

Lister’s blood alcohol content was 0.08, above the legal limit of 0.02 for drivers younger than 21. He also had an anxiety medication in his blood that has possible side effects of drowsiness and dizziness when used with alcohol, according to a warrant for his arrest.

Police charged Lister with DUI and traveling unreasonably fast. He was released on a $30,000 bond.

But despite the toxicology report and Lister’s admission that he was drinking, police found the cause of the collision was Santoro’s left turn. No charges in connection with Santoro’s death were filed against Lister.

“This turn was not made with reasonable safety from a stop sign,” Trooper Daniel Richman wrote in the warrant.

Carmen Santoro’s son, David Santoro, disagrees.

His lawsuit names Corey Lister, his father Robert Lister, and Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

In the lawsuit, Santoro’s lawyer, Leonard Isaac, alleges that Lister was speeding, drunk and failed to avoid the accident by looking out for other vehicles, breaking, or veering left or right.

The lawsuit alleges that Robert Lister should have known his son, an honors student when he graduated from Woodland Regional High School in 2013, suffered from alcohol and drug addiction issues and had a history of operating vehicles while impaired.

Just a month before Santoro’s death, Cheshire police had charged Lister with DUI, and he had been arrested on the same charge in September 2013. He had other arrests for selling drugs, according to court documents. He told police he was addicted to drugs and alcohol, including opiates and benzodiazepines and heroin, according to court documents.

Lister has been under intensive pretrial supervision since police arrested him April 23, subject to home confinement under electronic monitoring and weekly substance abuse testing. He is not allowed to drive.

The results of his substance tests have been negative since then, according to court documents.

Lister’s lawyer, Dean E. Weddall, has denied the charges in the lawsuit, saying Carmen Santoro was negligent by failing to stop at the stop sign, failing to yield right of way, failing to keep his vehicle under control, failing to look for other vehicles on the highway and failing to apply his breaks in time.

Michael J. Quinlan, representing the insurance company, wrote that Carmen Santoro pulled into the intersection when it was not safe.

Quinlan wrote that Carmen Santoro failed to use a portion of his driveway at 9 Porter Hill Road that exits directly onto Straitsville Road, providing a better line of sight for southbound traffic.

Porter Hill residents have long complained about the dangerous intersection, calling it a “deathtrap” during a zoning hearing in 2012. The owners of a 1.7 acre farm on the corner were applying to build a farm stand on their property.

“If they start selling over there, someone’s going to get hurt,” Carmen Santoro said at a hearing.

Issac wouldn’t say whether Santoro was considering a lawsuit against the town for failing to fix the dangerous intersection.

Efforts to reach Corey Lister’s lawyers, for the criminal or civil cases, were unsuccessful.