By Dermot Connolly
The retired priest charged with the hit-and-run death of a teacher after a Christmas party in Orland Park has been named in a second lawsuit, which also names the restaurant as a defendant.
Elizabeth Kosteck, a teacher at the same Orland Park Catholic school as Margaret Leja, who was killed in the December incident filed a lawsuit on Feb. 14 in Cook County Court against retired priest Paul Burak.
The lawsuit accuses Burak of negligence and driving under the influence of alcohol the night of Dec. 4. That night, Kosteck and Leja, both teachers at St. Michael School in Orland Park, were leaving a faculty Christmas party at Square Celt Ale House & Grill, beside Orland Square Mall in Orland Park.
The women were crossing an access road to get to their cars when they were hit by a vehicle driven by Burak, according to prosecutors. Leja, 61, suffered fatal injuries. She was a technology coach at the school for the past year and a half. Kosteck, a third-grade teacher, was hospitalized with injuries.
Her lawsuit, which also names The Square Celt as a defendant, seeks damages of at least $50,000. The plaintiffs maintain that the priest was overserved at the restaurant, “to the point of impairment.”
Leja’s family has also sued Burak, who retired in 2018 as pastor of St. Michael Church in Orland Park. A wrongful death lawsuit against Burak was filed Dec. 20 on behalf of William Byrne, Leja’s brother and administrator of her estate.
Burak was arrested the following day at his home in Palos Heights. His car with front-end damage was found in his garage. He was initially charged with aggravated driving under the influence, but prosecutors later dropped that count. He still faces charges including leaving the scene of a fatal accident. His next appearance in Bridgeview Courthouse is March 18.
When he was arrested, Burak told police he had two drinks at the party and did not remember the accident. His attorneys said he takes medication for glaucoma and Parkinson’s disease.
A preliminary court date for the lawsuit to be heard has been set for April 16.