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Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Over Drowning on Dustin Hoffman’s Estate

May 26, 1989

LITCHFIELD, Conn. (AP) _ A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit against Dustin Hoffman and three other defendants that stemmed from the accidental drowning of a woman on the actor’s estate in 1986.

Hoffman will pay nothing to the estate of Sheila Cruse Fionda under the settlement reached Thursday.

″The amount will not be disclosed but the settlement does not involve any money from Mr. Hoffman,″ said Superior Judge Walter M. Pickett Jr. after attorneys presented him with the agreement less than an hour before trial was to begin.

The lawsuit, filed by Fionda’s former husband on behalf of their son, concerned claims of wrongful death and negligence in Fionda’s Aug. 24, 1986, drowning. Hoffman was not at the estate at the time.

Fionda, 43, a teacher, was found floating face down about 6 a.m. in the hot tub portion of a swimming pool on Hoffman’s Roxbury estate. An autopsy showed her blood-alcohol count was three times the legal limit for drunken driving in Connecticut.

Fionda had gone out to dinner with Hoffman’s former caretaker, Albion Dudley. A court document says Fionda was awake at 4 a.m. in the caretaker’s apartment and asked Dudley to go swimming. When he declined, she went alone, the lawsuit said.

In addition to Hoffman and Dudley, the lawsuit also named the tub installer and the company that made the tub’s heating element. The lawsuit did not specify damages sought, but Fionda’s attorney said last year the family would settle for $200,000.

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