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Suit Settled In Rocky Point Shootings

Tampa Tribune

TAMPA – The victims of Rocky Point gunman Paul Calden have reached a settlement with Allstate Insurance Co. in a lawsuit that promised to have broad implications for how businesses handle dangerous employees.The amount of the settlement is being kept secret, the plaintiffs’ attorneys said Monday. The case had been set for a Nov. 6 trial in Hillsborough County Circuit Court.

Tampa attorney, Chris Knopik, whose law firm represents two of the five plaintiffs, said the agreement was reached during pretrial negotiations. Judge Robert Bonanno, who is presiding over the case, has yet to approve the agreement, Knopik said.

Allstate’s attorneys could not be reached for comment Monday.

The settlement comes just as the plaintiffs’ attorneys were about to begin examining Allstate Insurance’s financial records in preparing their case for punitive damages, Knopik said.

The widows of three Fireman’s Fund Insurance Cos. executives killed in Calden’s 1993 shooting rampage and two other executives who survived the attack had sued Allstate Insurance, Calden’s former employer, saying the company unleashed a dangerous employee on the insurance industry.

The victims contend the insurance giant knew Calden was dangerous and fired him in 1989, but gave him a letter of recommendation anyway. Allstate says Calden left the company because his job was eliminated in corporate restructuring.

Fireman’s Fund officials say they hired Calden in 1990 based on that recommendation.

Calden was fired from Fireman’s Fund in 1992, returning eight months later to the company’s Rocky Point office building, where he opened fire on a group of Fireman’s Fund executives eating lunch at the Island Center Café.

Killed were Ronald J. Ciarlone, 46, of Brandon; Frank Ditullio, 43, of Palm Harbor; and Donald C. Jerner, 46, of Belleair. Wounded were Sheila E. Cascade, 53, of Tampa and Marie “Jo” MacMillan, 57, of Palm Harbor.

The attorneys said the settlement, at least in this case, means there will not be an immediate answer to the question many employers wanted answers: Do they have a responsibility to warn other companies about dangerous employees?

Companies have avoided making such warnings for fear the employees would sue when they couldn’t get a new job.

“You may not have a definitive ruling that decides some of the precise issues of the case, but the fact that the case went to the stage it did suggests to employers that they should be careful in the way they deal with problem employees, particularly in terms of giving those employees letters of recommendation,” Knopik said.

The lawsuit’s end, though, is a relief for John Deufel, Calden’s former boss at Allstate.

Deufel was considered a pivotal witness, testifying in a deposition that Calden was fired by Allstate for bizarre and dangerous behavior.

Allstate officials, though, say Calden’s job was eliminated in a company reorganization.

“I’m just relieved it’s over,” said Deufel, who now heads a Palm Harbor real estate company. “I took a lot of abuse from the company [Allstate]. I lost a lot of friends, a lot of business contacts.

“There was no gain for me in any of this.”

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