- Associated Press - Friday, November 27, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Supreme Court has reinstated a lawsuit by the family of a man who killed five people in a car wreck in 2006 and was slain in prison two years later by a fellow inmate who was related to one of the crash victims.

Justices released a 6-0 decision earlier this week overturning a lower court that dismissed the lawsuit by Kevin Cales’ mother and sister on the basis that it was filed too late. The case will return to New Britain Superior Court for further proceedings.

Cales’ relatives sued the state Office of Victim Services in 2009, after the office rejected their request for money from the state’s crime victim compensation program to reimburse them for costs associated with Cales’ death. The office said the family wasn’t entitled to any compensation because Cales’ behavior contributed to his killing.

Cales, of New Britain, was sentenced to 79 years in prison in April 2008 after being convicted on manslaughter charges in the deaths of five people in a fiery car crash in Berlin in May 2006. Authorities said Cales’ ex-girlfriend and four passengers in her car died after the vehicle crashed while being chased by a car driven by Cales.

Less than two months after he was sentenced, Cales died after being attacked by fellow inmate Waldemar Rivera, who was a cousin by marriage to one of the victims. Rivera was serving seven years for robbery at the time and got an extra 10 years in prison for the attack on Cales.

Under the state’s crime victim compensation program, victims of certain crimes or their families can be reimbursed up to $5,000 for funeral expenses, up to $1,000 for crime scene cleanups and other costs including medical treatment and counseling. But victims and their families are ineligible if a victim’s behavior contributed to the crime.

The family had until 30 days after the Office of Victim Services’ decision to appeal it to Superior Court. While they served the lawsuit on the office on the 30th day following its decision, the lawsuit wasn’t filed in court until 43 days after the decision. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that serving the lawsuit on the office satisfied the deadline.

Officials with the Office of Victim Services and the state Attorney General’s Office declined to comment Friday on the Supreme Court ruling.

Cales’ mother and sister, Amelia and Rebecca Cales, could not be reached for comment.

Their attorney, Mario Cerame, said his clients are seeking about $5,000 for burial and other expenses related to Kevin Cales’ death. The Cales family also is seeking approval from the legislature to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the state Department of Correction.

Cerame said the Office of Victim Services’ rejection of the Cales’ compensation request “was another blow to them. They (state officials) didn’t protect their beloved brother and son. Then they deny them compensation relative to that.”

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