NEW HAVEN, CT (AP / CBSNewYork) – The founder of Connecticut-based Stew Leonard’s grocery store chain is facing a lawsuit alleging the reckless operation of his powerboat caused the death of a passenger last year.

WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau On The Story

Barbara Speranza is seeking millions of dollars in damages against Stewart Leonard Sr., his son Thomas Leonard and the company that owns the boat for the death of her husband, Robert. Her lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Bridgeport Superior Court.

“It’s going to be many, many millions of dollars that we’re going to be seeking from the jury in this case,” said Speranza’s attorney, Joel Faxon.

Speranza, a former Westport resident who owned the Ocean Club in St. Maarten, was violently tossed about the boat, suffering head and spinal injuries before he was ejected into the sea, his attorneys said.

Faxon said it’s unclear if the $4.6 million, 70-foot boat, called “Stew’s Special,” was operated by Leonard, his son or an employee.

Speranza’s attorneys say the boat was operated at high speeds in dangerous seas near the Caribbean island of Tortola. A small craft advisory/warning had been issued, they said.

“As the master of the boat, Stew Leonard made a reckless decision to go on that trip,” Faxon said.

Stew Leonard had the boat designed to go as fast as 90 miles per hour, Faxon said.

“I’m quite certain the evidence is going to show the speeds were excessive,” Faxon said.

Stew Leonard said last year a wave 12 to 15 feet high came out of nowhere and hit his powerboat. Meghan Bell, a family spokeswoman, declined comment, saying they had not seen the lawsuit yet.

Robert Speranza, a neighbor of Leonard’s, helped design parts of Apollo 13 and the F-16 fighter jet, Faxon said. He said the Speranzas had been married for 53 years and were enjoying travel.

“She’s devastated by this whole thing,” Faxon said. “They lived a tremendous life. They were just loving retirement.”

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (7)
  1. foodking says:

    This boat has a faulty design Flaw.A 70 foot boat family cruiser that goes 90 MPH?? Someone wants to go 90 miles an hour in a 70 foot family speed boat? . This boat is not designed for safety. This type of boat would me made with passengers enclosed wearing helmets & life jackets. This boat was way overpowered & deadly. It’s like taking your family out in Porsche 911 TURBO doing 150Mph. Just because Stew Wanted it does not mean it was safe. The owner is responsible for the lives of the people on their vessel. Now He must pay.

  2. Insurance agent says:

    Stew Leonard’s insurance company will undoubtedly settle with her for some reasonable amount. If this guy was a good friend and he trusted Stew and chose to go out of a boat with him, then there is some bit of responsibility on his part that has to be taken into account. Also, a “small craft advisory” is not exactly for 70′ boats. More like 20′ boats.

  3. Occupy Wall St. Forever says:

    I love these type of disputes between members of the 1%. Even when they have anything and everything that money can buy, and more money than they know what to do with, they still have a very ironic and prolific way of f***** it up!!!!!!

    I love it!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. adios amigos says:

      It all because of these ambulance chasing lawyers, just watch tv, in one day you will see no less than 15 lawyer ads, only in America folks,this crap doesn’t happen in other countries. But then again,almost all politicians,from the President down to the local Mayors are attorneys…………..and we all know,when a lawyer talks……………….he spews nothing but lies.

      1. dohdohbird says:

        I suppose he was held at gun point and forced to go on the boat. Pathetic!

    2. Peachy says:


      If everyone was rich, then everybody would be relatively poor. If there were no wealthy citizens, there would be no middle class either. The utopia you want doesn’t exist in the real world, and not for reasons you presume. Yes, greed helps no one, but even the very poor can be greedy. Stereotyping the wealthy is foolish. Gates foundation anyone?

Leave a Reply