MORRISTOWN — The widow of Mount Arlington Police Officer Joseph Wargo is suing the driver who killed him in a drug-influenced car crash on Route 80 in Roxbury.
Amy Wargo’s suit, filed in Superior Court in Morristown, names as defendants the driver, Michael Cassella of Howell, and his grandparents, Joseph and Dolores Rizzo of Howell, who allegedly let him drive the car that crashed into the police cruiser in October 2011.
(Picture Above) Amy Wargo reads a victim impact statement to the court at Michael Cassella's sentencing in Morristown on March 1. Wargo is suing Cassella for causing the wrongful death of her husband, Mount Arlington Police Officer Joseph Wargo. At right is Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Julie Serfess.
Cassella, 30, pleaded guilty in January to aggravated manslaughter. A recovering heroin addict, Cassella admitted that at the time of the crash, he was under the influence of heroin, Xanax, morphine and methadone, which he was using under prescription. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Wargo, from the Stewartsville section of Greenwich Township in Warren County, charged in her suit that Cassella caused her husband’s “wrongful death” by driving in a “careless and negligent manner” when he was under the influence of drugs.
The suit also accuses Joseph and Dolores Rizzo of causing the “wrongful death” by “entrusting” their vehicle to Cassella when they either “knew he was under the influence” of drugs or “was going to use said motor vehicle to obtain” drugs, which would make him “incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.”
Reached by phone, Joseph Rizzo declined to comment on the suit.
Michael Cassella’s defense attorney, Donald Lomurro, said the civil lawsuit will be handled by the family’s insurer, Allstate. He declined further comment.
At Allstate, spokesman Danny Jovic confirmed there is an "open claim" filed against the Rizzos in the incident.
"Our goal is to always settle all claims promptly and fairly," said Jovic, who had no further comment.
Police said Cassella was driving more than 90 mph on Route 80 west when he lost control of the Mitsubishi Lancer, crossed the median and slammed into Wargo’s Ford Crown Victoria, which suffered extensive front-end damage and was pushed into the woods.