Aura Martinez woke up on the morning of July 10, 2012 with pure joy.  One of her sons was getting married in the coming days, and another son had just flown into town with his wife and young family to celebrate.  Mrs. Martinez was especially thrilled to spend time with her 5 year old grandson, Juwan.  Later that morning, she and little Juwan took a walk with her dog to the children’s playground on the hill at the Samari Lake Condominium Complex in Hialeah.  Aura and her husband and their other children had been living there for many years. 

 While going down the slide, Juwan noticed some ducks at the edge of the large lake at the bottom of the hill.  He ran through a small opening in the broken aluminum fence that surrounded the playground.  Aura chased him frantically.  The little boy reached the ducks at the edge of the lake, lost his footing, and fell into the dark and murky water.  Aura jumped in after him.  Neither could swim and each was caught in a thicket of sawgrass.  A Good Samaritan who was on a second floor balcony raced down to the lake, dove in, and pulled them both out.  Thankfully, Juwan was not seriously injured.  Unfortunately, Aura sustained brain damage and remained in a coma for many months following the incident.  She ultimately passed away a year and a half later.

Rick Ellsley of Ellsley Sobol, P.L. in Plantation, and the late Julio Jaramillo of the Law Offices of Julio Jaramillo in Miami, represented the Martinez family.  According to Mr. Ellsley: “there was no law, regulation, ordinance, or industry standard that would have required the condo association to erect a fence or other barrier along the edge of that lake.  In fact, many of the other apartment complexes on that same lake did not have a fence.”

Additionally, the aluminum fence enclosing the children’s playground was missing some of the vertical protective bars.  Juwan ran through the opening in that fence that was closest to the lake.  Mr. Ellsley said that just like a fence along a lake, there is no law that requires there to be a fence around a playground, but “the federal government recommends that any playground that has been built near a lake needs to conform to the local building code.  The Miami-Dade County Code required that any fence or barrier that is constructed around a playground be ‘structurally sound and maintained in good repair’”.  Mr. Ellsley and Mr. Jaramillo sued the condo association, the former property management company, the janitorial contractor, and a small handful other entities that did work at various times on the property.

In court filings, the condo association and the other defendants all denied that they did anything wrong and assigned the blame to Mrs. Martinez for failing to properly supervise her grandson.

Throughout the litigation, the family faced many hurdles.  During Mr. Ellsley’s investigation, it was learned that many months before this tragedy, the condo association had fired its longtime property management company, Tower Management Services, Inc., (“TMS”) to save money.  It had replaced TMS with an onsite employee.  This created a legal hurdle for Aura’s lawyers on the issue of whether TMS even had a legal duty to protect Mrs. Martinez because it had not been the property management company for a long time before the incident.  It was also questionable as to whether the actions of TMS even contributed to cause the drowning given that it was not legally permitted to be working at the property for so many months prior. 

The testimony of Aura’s family established that the fence surrounding the playground had been missing the security bars for quite some time, and therefore TMS knew or should have known about the danger and recommended that the condo association fix it. 

Additionally, TMS was insured by Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London under a Commercial General Liability Policy.  The insurer filed a Declaratory Judgment action seeking to have the policy declared inapplicable to the incident because of the fact that the location in which the event occurred was not listed on the policy as the premises to be insured.  Mr. Ellsley countered that TMS, as a property management company, was the insured entity under this policy, and that the very nature of a property management company is to manage property at various locations. 

Mr. Ellsley also asserted that the specific type of insurance policy was not a ‘premises only’ policy but a ‘general liability’ policy which provided insurance for negligent acts of the insured property management company regardless of which property the events occurred on.  Ultimately, the insurer dismissed its Declaratory Judgment action when it agreed to settle the liability and damages case, but had it not, it was likely the family would have prevailed with this theory in the trial court.

 Recently, the various parties agreed to resolve the case for $1,475,000 which included the limits of the condo association’s insurance policy.

The parents of an 18-year-old autistic boy who was shot and killed by a deputy have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the West Palm Beach Sheriff’s office. The parents say the deputy did not try to calm their son down and did not wait for backup to arrive, but instead fired 11 shots, fatally striking the teen in his chest.

According to investigators with the sheriff’s office, the deputy did not violate agency policies and was in compliance with the self-defense laws in Florida. The lawsuit, however, says that the teenager was not armed when he was shot and seeks damages of at least $15,000.

The parents said that deputies have been out to their home twice before to deal with their son when he was agitated. Those deputies had been able to calm their son down. According to the investigators’ reports, the dispatcher told the deputy responding to the teen’s home that he had a tree trimmer and a hammer, and he had threatened to harm anyone who tried to approach him.

The lawsuit claims that the deputy told the teen to drop those weapons, which he did. The deputy, however, drew his weapon and fired. The parents and the teen’s sister watched as he died in the street.

The investigators report recounts a different story. It says that the teen kept advancing on the deputy and was reaching into the waistband of his pants. In a video that was made at the scene, the deputy said he was “fearful that he was gonna kill me, so I had to shoot back and instincts just took over.” According to the State Attorney’s Office, the deputy was about 23 feet away from the teenager when the shots were fired.

If a loved one has lost his of her life due to the negligence of another, contact a Florida personal injury attorney. You may have a claim for damages in a civil lawsuit. While nothing can compensate for such a tragedy, a measure of legal justice may help in the grieving process and bring at least a level of peace as you cope with the loss.

Source: articles.sun-sentinel, – Ben Wolford, August 1, 2013

A Broward County sheriffs corporal struck and killed a 46-year-old woman walking across North Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on June 26 just after 3 a.m. Her boyfriend was walking in front of her as they were crossing the highway where there was no crosswalk.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department said the BSOs traffic homicide investigation unit is handling the accident investigation. The woman’s boyfriend said he heard the deputy’s car hit his girlfriend and saw her fly through the air. When she landed, he said she was not breathing. He attempted to resuscitate her by giving her CPR, but to no avail. The man also said that he did not see any emergency lights or hear any sirens on the patrol vehicle, and he thought the deputy was speeding. The sheriff’s department’s spokeswoman said that those are details that the traffic homicide investigators would be looking into during their investigation.

A traffic reconstructionist who works in the West Palm Beach area said that the investigation may take several months. This is because the process involves many steps and is very in-depth. Evidence would have been gathered from the accident scene, which includes taking measurements to determine how far the woman thrown from the point of impact, where the impact occurred and how fact the patrol car was traveling when the impact occurred.

The accident reconstructionist said the vehicle would have been equipped with a “black box” that would tell if the deputy was wearing a seat belt, when he hit the brakes and the gas pedal’s position. The only way the black box would have recorded this information, though, is if the air bags deployed during the Auto Accident

If it is determined the deputy was speeding without emergency lights and sirens, the woman’s family may have grounds for a civil action against the deputy and the department for her wrongful death, as well as other claims. An experienced personal injury attorney would be able to provide further information about such a case. 

Source: articles.sun-sentinel.com, – Erika Pesantes and Tonya Alanez, June 26, 2013

A lawsuit has been filed by the family of a 28-year-old woman who died last August in a parasailing accident in Pompano Beach, Florida. The defendants named in the lawsuit include the Sands Harbor Resort and Custom Chutes, Inc., as well as others. The captain and crew of the boat who took the woman and her husband on the parasailing charter were also named as defendants.The lawsuit asks for an “excess of $15,000” in punitive and compensatory damages.

The woman and her husband, who lived in Connecticut, were on vacation. The woman’s harness broke while she was 200 feet above the water. Her husband, who was up in the air with her when her harness broke, watched helplessly as she fell. The captain and crew have received a lot of criticism because they pulled the husband back down before they went to help the woman. One expert, though, said the captain did the right thing.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants failed to provide a harness for the woman that was good working condition and was safe to use. The woman’s father wants Florida’s legislature to pass stricter safety regulations for parasailing operations, although there have been such bills recently that have not been passed. He said there needs to be more “common sense” in the safety regulations.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are about 70 to 120 commercial parasailing operations in Florida. The ride usually lasts about 20 minutes and the cost is between $50 and $100.

This is the second parasailing accident that killed a tourist in the last decade. Another accident occurred in 2007 when a teenager and her sister slammed into a hotel roof after their line snapped in high winds.

If you or a loved one is injured due to someone else’s negligence, contact an experienced Florida personal injury attorney. Financial compensation may be awarded in a civil case to those who are injured or killed due to another’s recklessness or negligence.

Source: sun-sentinel.com, “http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/fort-lauderdale/fl-parasailing-death-lawsuit-20130612,0,86031.story,” Rafael Olmeda, June 12, 2013.

A Boca Raton, Florida, cosmetic surgery center could be named as a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit, according to the attorney for the family of a 39-year-old Brazilian woman. The womanreportedly had a tummy tuck, neck liposuction, and a breast augmentation and lift performed at the Boca Raton Surgery Center. The woman lived in New York, was the mother of two children and worked as an Alzheimer’s patient’s caregiver.

According to the woman’s attorney, there were signs that something was not right after the surgery. The doctors allowed the woman to leave, despite the symptoms of the impending problems. There reportedly were several post-procedure phone calls made to the surgical center, during which time the family explained the problems the woman was having. The family contends they were told nothing was really wrong.
The woman reportedly suffered a stroke, though, and eventually went into a coma. She was taken to Boynton Beach’s Bethesda West Hospital. On April 24, the family made the decision to have her removed from life support after she was declared brain dead. Her organs were donated.
This story brings to light the cosmetic surgery industry in South Florida yet again, which was recently highlighted in an episode of “Katie,” which is hosted by Katie Couric. That episode was titled, “Dying to Be Beautiful: Beauty Trends that Can Prove Lethal.”
If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. There are civil remedies available to hold the responsible party or parties financially accountable for their recklessness or negligence. An experienced attorney will protect your rights and advise you of the best way to proceed with legal action in your case.

Source:  examiner.com, “http://www.examiner.com/article/mother-of-two-dies-following-visit-to-boca-raton-surgery-center,” William Lewis, Jr., May 2, 2013.

Five people were killed in a horrific car accident in Palm Beach County, Florida in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 13, 2013. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the accident occurred on Blue Heron Boulevard near I-95 in Rivera Beach.
The crash occurred about 12:30 a.m. and all five victims were in a 1994 Lexus that was traveling east on Blue Heron Boulevard. Law enforcement said a 2008 Mercedes CLK 350 was coming off I-95 and did not stop for the traffic light at the intersection. The Mercedes, traveling at a high rate of speed according to investigators, hit the right side of the Lexus.

Both vehicles went through the median and into the westbound lanes of traffic. A third vehicle was hit with debris from the crash. The Lexus overturned and ended up on the westbound shoulder of Blue Heron Boulevard.

Three passengers in the back seat of the Lexus were not wearing their seat belts and were ejected from the vehicle. All three, ages 14, 17, and 17, were ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. Another passenger, 22, was also pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the vehicle, 21, was transported by ambulance to St. Mary’s Medical Center, but died shortly thereafter.
The driver of the Mercedes, 21, also suffered serious injuries and was transported to St. Mary’s Medical Center. His condition is listed as serious. The Highway Patrol says there are charges pending against him. It is not known at this time if alcohol played a factor in the crash.

The driver of the third vehicle involved was not injured.

When the wrongful death of a loved one occurs because of the recklessness of another person, the family could pursue a civil claim. An attorney experienced in car accidents and wrongful death cases would be able to explain all the options available and help these families receive the compensation that they deserve.

Source: local10news.com, “http://www.local10.com/news/Five-killed-in-Palm-Beach-County-crash/-/1717324/19738372/-/s9wfbaz/-/index.html,” n.a.,13 April 2013

A nine-year-year old boy was seriously injured when he was struck by a van while skateboarding near the intersection of Seventh Street and Northwest Twelfth Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. The accident occurred only a block or so from the child’s home and the driver of the van allegedly stopped to apologize to the injured boy before driving away from the accident scene.

The boy’s father, who was outside of his home with some friends when the accident happened, found his son gasping for breath, covered in blood, and moaning. He said it was one of the most horrific experiences of his life. The boy suffered a fractured jaw along with multiple scrapes and bruises. He spent three days in the hospital, before being released to recover at home.

Police are still searching for the driver of the silver van, which witnesses said had a paper license plate. The father said the crowd that had gathered at the scene was shocked that the driver left; he believes the driver will be caught. This accident was one of two in just a couple of days that occurred in South Florida involving children who were struck by a vehicle while they were skateboarding.

The other accident occurred just a couple of days earlier and involved an 11-year-old boy who lived in Miramar, Florida. The accident happened in a gated community. The driver of the vehicle did not leave the scene, but went to a nearby house to summon help. The boy died of his injuries; however, police have not charged or cited the driver.

The family of the boy who died could pursue a wrongful death claim against the driver of the vehicle when he is identified. The family of the injured boy could pursue a claim against the driver of the van and the owner of the van for his injuries and damages. He may have lasting mental and physical injuries as a result of the accident and may sue to obtain funds for the cost of future medical care related to his injuries.

Source: sun-sentinel.com, Man recalls holding his injured son as hit-run driver sped off in Fort Lauderdale,” Ihosvani Rodriguez, March 29, 2013