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Westport Man's Widow Sues Norwalk's Stew Leonard

NORWALK, Conn. – The widow of a former Westport man who was swept off a boat owned by Stew Leonard Sr. and killed in the Caribbean last summer is suing the Norwalk dairy store owner.

Barbara Speranza is suing Leonard, his son and the owner of the boat because she couldn't get straight answers from Leonard and because her life is ruined, said Joel Faxon of the New Haven law firm Stratton Faxon.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Bridgeport Superior Court. Speranza is listed as the plaintiff, both as an individual and as executrix of the estate of herself and her husband. Defendants are Leonard, Thomas Leonard and Carpe Diem Three LLC, owner of the boat. Faxon said Stew Leonard Sr. is a member of Carpe Diem Three.

Faxon said Leonard designed the boat, the Stew's Special, to go up to 90 mph. Faxon said Stew's Special doesn't plane vertically through the water at high speeds as professionally designed speedboats do. It plows through the water, he said.

Robert Speranza died in August at age 73 after suffering severe brain, head and spinal injuries in the boat before being ejected into the sea off Tortola, according to papers filed in court. Faxon said Stew Leonard Sr. decided to take his boat from St. Maarten to St. Thomas despite a small craft advisory issued due to a coming hurricane. "First of all, he shouldn't be out there because conditions are so bad. Second, he shouldn't be out there on a 300-mile trip under those conditions," he said.

Leonard is quoted in the news reports that followed the death as saying a rogue 12-foot wave hit the boat.

The Speranzas were married for 53 years, Faxon said, and Barbara Speranza was happy. The couple shared a business on St. Maarten that she says she is forced to give up. Faxon quotes her as saying, "I cannot run the business, I have to sell it. My life is completely turned upside down, all as consequence of a reckless decision made by Stew Leonard."

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