4-year-old child killed by dog in Miami

Dog bite cases are among the saddest and most tragic cases when representing victims and families in personal injury cases. Today in Miami, a four year-old was apparently mauled to death by a dog at 12301 SW 230th Street. The details of this horrific incident have yet to be known or released by Miami-Dade responding police officers. It seems that the identities of the dog or the dog owner are unknown at this time. A still photograph taken by a helicopter shows a teddy bear laying on the grass, and a small size sheet draped over the child's tiny body.

The dog laws in Florida favor all victims of dog bites, making the dog owner strictly liable for the injuries the dog inflicted upon the victim. In cases involving a child younger than 6-years-old, Florida Law disposes that the child cannot be held responsible for any comparative fault. There is a standing comparative negligence question regarding the parents and the potential lack of supervision of the child which may or may not have contributed to the child falling a victim of the animal.

The tragedy of losing a child under such ignominious circumstances is even worse knowing that, so far, the dog owner and the dog are unidentified. Even if the police recovered their identity, the parents of the small child will be in an extremely difficult position to recover for their unspeakable loss.

In Florida, dog owners are not required to carry liability insurance in case their dog attacks an innocent victim. For a long time, dog owners were covered under their homeowner's insurance coverage. But insurance companies have since made the business decision to specifically exclude coverage and insurance benefits to victims of dog bites from homeowner's insurance policies. In effect, it means that in most cases the victims and their families will not recover for their loss.

Should you have more information about the dog attack that killed the small child today in Southwest Miami-Dade County, please contact the authorities immediately.

Fatal boating collision on takes four lives

In May, Ira Leesfield underlined the increased dangers in all water-related activities, including boating, during national holidays when he wrote: "Memorial Day boating and water sports highlight safety issues in the Florida keys." This past weekend, during the 4th of July festivities, tragedy struck when three boats collided, resulting in the death of four people, and seven more severely injured.

Investigating officers for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have released several answers as to what exactly happened on Friday night at around 10:40pm. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Jorge Pino said yesterday that it is typical for boaters to go out on the bay to watch the July 4th fireworks from the water. When the fireworks end, it is also typical that the majority of these boats sprint back to land, and the dark conditions always make heightened the dangers of a potential boat collision or accident. It would only take a leap to hear the investigators look to the operator of the Contender as the potential responsible person for the three-boat collision.

miami-boat-accident.jpgAccording to witnesses aboard the Carrera, the Contender was "coming straight toward" them at high speed and crashed into the Carrera before any evasive maneuvers could be undertaken by either captains. The Contender spun out of control after the first impact and ended its course after colliding with a third boat, the Boston Whaler.

This violent accident took the lives of 3 young people who were aboard the Contender, including its supposed captain, Andrew Garcia, 23. The other two fatally wounded victims are Victoria Dempsey, 20, and Kelsie Karpiak, 24. The remaining two passengers on the Contender, Catherine Payan, 24, and Samantha Rolth, sustained catastrophic injuries as well and to date, Catherine is still fighting for her life at Ryder Trauma Center.

One young man on the Carrera lost his life, Jason Soleimani, 23, from Old Westbury, New York. He was in Miami with his girlfriend, Heather Hanono, 22. The Hanono family was also on the boat with them, including two toddlers, Emma, 5, and Ella, 2. Both were uninjured in the incident. Thankfully, none of the passengers on the Boston Whaler were injured other than a minor leg injury.

As we have discussed on this blog many times in the past, Florida is the number one State in total numbers of registered vessels, and reportable boating accidents. Across the State of Florida, Miami-Dade county has the highest number of accidents and injuries.

That is why the law firm of Leesfield & Partners has handled many boating accidents cases throughout the State, the majority of which involved fatal accidents, including a seven-figure settlement for the death of a 20-year-old girl who was a passenger in a speedboat that crashed into a dock on a lake in the middle of the night. In that case, speed and alcohol were involved.

South Florida Roads: Six fatalities under 24 hours

In less than 24 hours, South Florida roadways have witnesses four motor vehicle accidents which caused the death of six people. While the number of traffic accident fatalities is in somewhat decline in the State overall, last weekend's events are a brutal reminder that traffic safety remains the greatest cause for unnatural deaths in Florida.

Ambulance_iStock_000011321000Medium.jpgIn Miami Beach, a woman was killed while crossing the street at Rue Granville and Normandy Drive. She was struck by a car on Sunday night and was emergently transported to the hospital. She succumbed to her serious injures at the hospital.

Earlier that day, two women crossing Alligator Alley were killed when they were struck by an SUV near mile marker 63. According to the driver of the vehicle who struck them, the police said the deceased were walking along the median of Alligator Alley and began crossing the road in the direction of their car that was parked in a rest area along the road. The driver of the SUV was unable to avoid them and after hitting the windshield, they both died at the scene.

In Fort Lauderdale, the Florida Highway Patrol responded to another traffic fatality. According to investigators and witnesses, a person had stopped his car on Interstate 75. A tractor-trailer failed to see the stopped car and rammed his truck into the car, killing its occupant who was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Finally in Miami-Dade County, Duane Billie, 37, drove into oncoming traffic on Tamiami Trail and hit another car. In the other vehicle, Teresa Osceloa, 54, was driving eastbound. Billie crashed his car head-on into Teresa's vehicle and both driver were killed upon impact. Both decedents were Miccosukee tribal members, and Billie was an off-duty Miccosukee police captain.

Sadly, these tragedies that took the lives of 6 people collectively were all avoidable. Some are caused by distracted drivers, others by people taking chances rather than slowing down and avoiding danger. As a result of empirical bad behaviors and bad driving by drivers, Florida is one of the deadliest state in the country, and while the trend over the last 20 years is overall positive, the year-by-year numbers are a cause for concern.

In 2012, there were 281,321 traffic accidents throughout the state of Florida. That is more than any year in the last 20 years. That translates in over 770 accidents per day. Thankfully, the large majority of these are non-fatal accidents. Among them, almost 7 accidents per day will involve a fatality. In 2012, there were 2,430 fatalities on the roads throughout the State of Florida. In a vacuum, that number is quite encouraging when compared to the 2,999 fatalities in 2000, or the 3,533 in 2005. But experts sound the alarm and point to the counter-intuitive trend these numbers show. With car safety improving, and the Florida legislature passing tougher laws, the trend fails to go down as rapidly as it should, and as it was expected.

The outlier the latest fatalities statistics show is the new and generalized behavior adopted by most drivers in the country and also in Florida: the use of cell phones while driving. In the last decade, the apparition of smart phones has been attributed to causing a very large share of traffic accidents and fatalities.

It is too early to say that cell phone and distracted driving behaviors were the cause or at least contributing factors to the six fatalities that occurred this past weekend in South Florida. But the fact that since 2010, the number of smartphone users has almost tripled, goes to show that behavior modification of drivers will soon become, if it hasn't already, the number one concern to challenge in the name of road safety.

Children poisoned by carbon monoxide at Daycare sent to Hospital

Yesterday, 72 children and 10 adults were emergently transferred to the hospital after a carbon monoxide leak was discovered at a daycare facility. Among all the small children, five were clearly more affected by headaches and vomiting. The authorities advised that the leak at "Les Petits Explorateurs" daycare in Quebec was contained and thankfully a tragedy had been avoided. The investigation continues as to how the leak had occurred the first place.

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs after inhalation of carbon monoxide, a toxic, odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas. Minimal exposure can affect a person in many ways, including fatigue, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. If carbon monoxide poisoning is prolonged over a significant period of time, severe symptoms and health risks will occur such as losing consciousness, permanent brain damage, and death.

In 2008, a Florida law finally passed with the help of Ira H Leesfield, which requires that every building for which a building permit is issued for new construction on or after July 1, 2008, and having a fossil-fuel-burning heater or appliance, a fireplace, or an attached garage shall have an approved operational carbon monoxide alarm installed within 10 feet of each room used for sleeping purposes. (Fla. Stat. § 553.885)

The law was passed soon after the fatal carbon monoxide incident which occurred in a large hotel in Key West, Florida, where a young man and his father were found unresponsive in their hotel room. The room shared a wall with one of the hotel's boiler room. The investigation led by the authorities and different bodies of agency found that the boiler had been operated without the proper permits and had failed to be inspected after several repairs had been done in-house. The young man was fatally poisoned while the father survived.

Despite many states now espousing the same approach than the Florida legislator, fatalities attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning continue to increase:

carbon monoxide statitstics.gif

The avoided-tragedy in Quebec yesterday is a reminder that carbon monoxide poisoning can occur anywhere and can affect family through no fault of their own. The responsibility to prevent such incidents rests on property owners and members of the public to demand safe premises, especially when the members of their family are small children.

Read more about our coverage of carbon monoxide incident here.

Read more about Leesfield & Partners' results here.

Settlement in personal injury construction case involving toppled crane and operator error

Construction cases are among the most complex and difficult to win often for factual reasons, and always for legal reasons.

This week in Hallandale, a horrific construction site incident occurred when Christopher Ricci, 27, was killed after a crane toppled and fell on him in the Golden Isles neighborhood of Hallandale Beach. At the time, Christopher Ricci was working on a sea wall. "The crane started to topple over. Construction workers noticed what was taking place and they took off running" said Hallandale Beach police Capt. Sonia Quinones. Christopher took off running as well according to witnesses, but he was fatally hit by the boom before he could run for safety.


Leesfield and Partners successfully resolved a very similar case than the tragic Hallandale incident of Thursday morning.

In 2008, our client, a labor foreman, was working on a construction site, in charge of setting loads onto the cranes for lifts. One late afternoon, the crane operator decided to lower (or dog) the crane down for the night. The crane was equipped with a 150 foot main boom and 180 luffing boom, the crane operator had to follow a certain procedure in order to properly and safely lower the crane: First the operator must lower the luffing boom and make sure it is not extended before lowering the main boom.

complaint_Page_01.jpgThat day however, instead of lowering the luffing boom first, the operator lowered the main boom while the luffing boom was still extended way too high. Several workers at the site noticed that the crane operator was improperly lowering the main boom with the luffing boom still sticking up. Some yelled and tried to wave off the operator from lowering the crane in this manner. It was too late. A split second later, the crane began to tip forward. Our client, who was setting another load on the crane, was in the direct path of the collapsing crane. Alerted by others' screaming warnings, our client began to run for his life. But while running away, the crane boom struck our client on his hard hat knocking him to the ground. The boom then bounced off the end of a beam, ricocheted to the ground demolishing and crushing our client's right leg.

Thomas Scolaro and Ira Leesfield filed a lawsuit in this case and were successful in reaching a settlement with all parties despite the tough worker's compensation laws in Florida. A copy of the lawsuit can be obtained by contacting Leesfield & Partners.

Electrocuted workers in Miami Beach in critical condition at Ryder Trauma Center

On 69th Street and Harding Avenue in Miami Beach, two men working on an apartment complex renovations and repairs were violently electrocuted when they came into contact with a power line.

The two workers' identities have yet to be released by the authorities, but some of the facts of this incident seem to be without dispute at this early stage. The two men were in the bucket of a cherry picker. A Miami Beach resident whose window was close from where the incident took place, Greg Maas, woke up to loud screams outside his window. When he looked out into the street, he saw the two men laying flat at the bottom of the bucket.


Photo courtesy of wsvn - 7News

The responding investigators gathered additional facts and initially concluded that while the two workers were concentrating on the task at hand, the bucket came into contact with a power line, when they were approximately 30 feet up in the air. After the incident occurred, a power line could be observed as having fallen off from its normal fixture, which raises the question whether the power line came into contact with the bucket when it fell or whether the bucket was being negligently operated near the power line in question.

The men were immediately transported by ambulance to Jackson Ryder Trauma Center and their conditions have been listed as critical.

In Florida, when a person becomes injured while working on a construction site, the injured party's recovery against his employer may be affected by workers' compensation laws. However, in many cases, other parties may be legally responsible for causing the injuries in the first place, including third‑party contractors, property owners, or equipment manufacturers. To the extend these parties may be brought into your claim, the ultimate financial recovery will likely not be affected by workers' compensation laws. In some circumstances, the injured person will be able to recover damages directly from the construction company.

For over 38 years, Leesfield and Partners has strongly and efficiently represented victims of construction accidents. Similar to the incident that occurred today on North Miami Beach, Leesfield and Partners represented a 16-year-old plaintiff who was electrocuted when touching a metal pole from inside because the internal wiring had come loose. Our firm obtained a $1,265,000 settlement.

In another electrocution case, our firm reached a settlement of $1,135,000 when it represented the parents of a 12-year‑old boy who was electrocuted to death because of improperly wired boat lift. The electrician's license was revoked following this death.

For a complete list of the firm's representative results, visit our website here: www.leesfield.com.

Florida Pedestrians in Great Danger - Cell Phone abuse ignored

pedestrian_hit_mgn.jpegFlorida, the third most populated state in the nation, has tepid or no laws to prevent cell phone or texting abuse, but at the same time, complaint ranking is No. 1 in pedestrian deaths. Leesfield & Partners, P.A. has been clamoring and pushing the legislature for greater public protection from distracting cell phone/texting excesses. "We are a state of millions of smart phones and stupid drivers," according to Managing Partner, Ira Leesfield, who has written, lectured and lobbied for change:

"Driving While on the Cell Phone-Punitive Damage Awards Should Come Through Loud and Clear." The Brief, American Bar Association, Vol. 36, No. 4, Summer 2007. "Can You Hear Me Now - An Argument for Punitive Damages in Cell Phone Driving Cases." Section Connection, Motor Vehicle Collision, Highway & Premises Liability, American Association for Justice, Vol. 13, No. 1 Fall/Winter 2006. "Make the Right Call." The Miami Herald, March 13, 2013. "Driving + Cell Phones = Bad Call." Trial Magazine, American Association for Justice, August 2010.

Leesfield, through the safety efforts of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) has taken the specific platform to underscore the neuro-impairment of a cell phone user while operating a multi-ton vehicle. Motor vehicle accidents should be tracked by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). Cell phone abuse has now found its way to large waterways, and the number of cell phone deaths and injuries by boat and connected with water sports is dramatically increasing.

Continue reading "Florida Pedestrians in Great Danger - Cell Phone abuse ignored" »

Tragic fatal boating incident in Key Biscayne

On sunday evening, Ernesto Hernandez, 23, was pronounced dead at Ryder Trauma Center in Miami where he was airlifted following an incident off Nixon beach in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Ernesto was with his family and friends on a sunday afternoon when a nearby motorboat became stuck on a sand bar. Several people jumped out of the boat, including Ernesto, to assist the operator of the boat to free up the vessel from the sand bar. That is when one of the four propeller engines of the boat caught Ernesto and inflicted fatal injuries to his body. Jorge Pino, an investigator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission relayed to the media that the "young man who came to assist ended up in the rear of the vessel and one of the engines and the propeller actually caught his body, his torso." Despite the rescue efforts, first of his friends and family, followed by fire rescue, Ernesto succumbed from the injuries he sustained while helping the vessel.

The boat in question is a 40-foot pleasure boat operated at the time by DJ Laz, a popular South Florida radio voice. The vessel was being used as Pitbull's vodka brand Voli Spirits' promotional boat.

voli pitbull boat.jpg

The investigators have yet to establish what may have happened or caused Ernesto Hernandez to become fatally injured while he was in the process of assisting the boat. Questions of potential alcohol intoxication have been raised, but reports have mentioned that DJ Laz, whose real name is Lazaro Mendez, did not display any signs of being intoxicated. Nonetheless, something went horribly wrong in the early evening hours off Nixon beach.

With main offices in Miami, Key West, and Miami Beach, Leesfield & Partners has been involved in a large amount of boating incidents. In a similarly tragic case, Ira Leesfield and Thomas Scolaro represented a family whose young child was fatally wounded by the propellers of a boat in the Florida Keys. Boating in the State of Florida has multiple safety requirements that many boat operators ignore either due to a lack of knowledge, or because they choose to ignore them.

To read more about the incident mentioned above as well as other cases resolved by Leesfield & Partners, feel free to click here.

Fatal Electrocution of 7-year-old boy in North Miami likely caused by Code Violation

crClip_6.jpg7-year-old Calder Sloan was in his swimming pool with Gary, the son of his nanny, who was watching Calder and his younger brother Caleb in their home in North Miami Beach when the unthinkable happened. Gary felt a shock and jumped out of the water yelling for Calder to do the same. Calder did not hear him as he was swimming under water at the time. A split second later, Calder was thrown out of the water. Neighbors rushed to the backyard, performed CPR while getting zapped themselves.

Calder was rushed to Jackson North Medical Center, but the young boy could not survive the jolt of electricity that went through his body. The Miami Herald reported power source could have been as much as 120 volts.

crClip_5.jpgA photograph of the pool light showed rust and corrosion which further evidences an electrical circuit issue with the repairs. Calder's father, Chris Sloan, told media that about nine months ago, he had an electrician fix the pool light which was not working properly.

crClip_7.jpgAn electrical inspection of the breaker box revealed that the light switch to the pool was not grounded properly, and that electricity was going directly into the pool rather than being diverted from it.

This tragedy is shockingly similar to the case Leesfield & Partners took on less than two years ago when 11-year-old, Ashton Jojo, was fatally electrocuted when she retrieved a golf ball from a pond obstacle while playing miniature golf at a resort in Central Florida. The inspection revealed that the pond's electrical breakers were improperly installed and replaced. At the time, official investigators confirmed that the water feature in question was missing its ground fault interrupter (GFI) breakers, which are required by code.

To read more about the investigation and ensuing lawsuit in the Ashton Jojo tragedy, click the links below:

Electrocution suspected in death of 11-year-old - Latest Resort Tort Incident in Florida

Autopsy confirms electrocution caused the death of 11-year-old Orlando Resort guest

Code violation responsible for the fatal electrocution of 11-year-old guest at Central Florida Resort

Awareness of Florida Resort Torts heightened in fatal electrocution case of young child

Leesfield leads Resort Tort fight for family of electrocuted 11-year-old girl

Lawsuit Filed Against Orange Lake Country Club Following 11-Year Old Girl's Electrocution Death

The authorities' investigation continues to uncover the identity of the contractor and electrician who worked on the Sloan's pool light. The work done one the Sloan's pool about nine months ago requires that the contractor apply for a permit to the job, as it is required by the City of North Miami for any pool electrical work that is more complicated than simply changing a light bulb. Applying for a permit ensures that not only the job is done by a competent electrician, but also guarantees that an inspection by city officials is performed before the anybody is granted access to the pool itself, all in the name of safety. However, City building department records indicate that no permits were pulled or inspections were done at the Sloan home in the last twelve months.

While the investigation is ongoing, Calder's family is preparing itself to celebrate the young boy's life, who turned 7 last week. Donations to the Calder Jacob Sloan Legacy Fund can be made here, which will go to benefit Calder's school, Lehrman Community Day School, where he was about to finish his school year as a first grader. The fund information can be found here: DONATIONS TO CALDER JACOB SLOAN LEGACY FUND. Services for Calder will take place Friday, April 18, at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach.

Tivoli Park Management is to blame for drowning of twin toddlers say residents

Last week, two year-old twin sisters Harmony and Harmani West tragically drowned in the swimming pool of their apartment complex, Tivoli Park, in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Since the incident, while the parents are attempted to cope with their brutal and unfair loss, residents and neighbors have clearly and unequivocally placed the blame on the management company for the family's loss.

"The doors don't lock." Residents said in no uncertain terms that the door and gate to the pool is always open. Lou Pena, a fellow resident at Tivoli Park told police and news reporters that the pool door "never locks. Anyone can go in whenever they want I don't blame a little child for wandering in it was going to happen sooner or later."

As discussed last week in our first entry on this tragedy, Florida Law imposes that residential swimming pools be fenced in. At the time of passage of the new law, drowning was the leading cause of death of young children in the state of Florida. The Legislature received testimony of experts throughout the legislative process confirming that constant adult supervision is the key to accomplishing the objective of reducing the number of submersion incidents, and that when lapses in supervision occur a pool safety feature designed to deny, delay, or detect unsupervised entry to the swimming pool will reduce drowning incidents.

As a result, the new law provided in part that residential swimming pools, such as the one at Tivoli Park, must be fenced in. Florida Statute 515.29 imposes certain standards for apartment complex and large residences in the manner their swimming pools must be fenced in:

Gates that provide access to swimming pools must be self-closing and equipped with a self-latching locking device, the release mechanism of which must be located on the pool side of the gate and so placed that it cannot be reached by a young child over the top or through any opening or gap.

According to statements from residents at Tivoli Park, the management company of the apartment complex did not maintain their property adequately by allowing the door on their swimming pool's fence to remain constantly open. The news report above clearly shows that the latching mechanism was broken at the time of the incident. This essentially caused the fence to be utterly useless as any child could walk through and gain access to the swimming pool, like it happened last week. Tivoli Park is likely negligent for the terrible tragedy that occurred on their property.

Leesfield & Partners has successfully litigated several injury claims arising out of the negligence of property owners and management companies and the lack of maintenance of pools, commercial pools, and spas: Federal Judge Awards $2.95 Million in Wrongful Death Drowning Cases

Broken lock on swimming pool fence of Deerfield Beach complex leads to the fatal drowning of two twin toddlers

Harmani and Harmony West were just 2 years old, yesterday in Deerfield Beach, they drowned in the pool of the apartment complex in which they lived with their mother. The apartment complex, Tivoli Park, has 6 pools and spas according to their website, all of which are gated with a locked door to prevent these exact incidents to occur. Witnesses did tell authorities that the lock on the pool in which the two small children drowned was broken and did not prevent the toddlers to gain access to the water.

3.jpgAccording to the responding officers, a couple visiting from North Carolina who was staying at Tivoli Park noticed a girl floating in the pool as the man made its way to the hot tub. He jumped in the pool and dragged the girl's body out of the pool as quickly as he could. The woman then noticed a second body. The couple called 911 and efforts to resuscitate were undertaken aggressively performed by CPR. One of the girl was taken to Broward Health Medical Center by ambulance, the other by air, but later that night, both girls were pronounced dead at the hospital.

The early investigation of the officers has shown that somehow the twin girls had somehow been able to exit their apartment and walked to the pool area. The pool was gated, but the lock on the gate was broken and the girls ended up in the pool.

Florida law requires residential swimming pool to be fenced in for safety

fl-twins-drowning-20140408-002.jpgThe Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act became law in 2009 with the sole purpose to reduce the number of drowning incidents and fatalities in the state of Florida. The law requires notably that all outdoor swimming pools must have a 4-foot fence or other barrier around the outer perimeter of the pool, with no gaps in coverage. The barrier must also be sufficiently away from the pool's edge so a child who penetrates the barrier or fence does not immediately fall into the pool. Entry through the barrier and to the pool must open outward and have a self-closing and self-locking device that is beyond a child's reach.

Harmani and Harmony West's incident was a needless tragedy. The swimming pool in which they drowned was fenced in, but the lock that would have prevented the twin girls from gaining access to the pool and drowning, was broken. While the investigation might reveal additional facts, the fact that a lock was allowed to remain broken for an unknown period of time, all the while knowing full well that families with small children were living in the apartment complex, places the blame squarely on the owner and association of Tivoli Park.

Lawsuit filed in case of fatal explosion against Holy Cross Hospital

Last August, Adele Bearman went to Holy Cross Hospital to have routine surgery. Leesfield & Partners, Ira Leesfield, said in an interview to the Miami Herald and other news outlet: "While they were doing this rather routine surgery, there was a leak from the oxygen mask into the environment. The surgeon, anesthesiologist, and the hospital employees didn't communicate with each other. There was an explosion. She literally caught on fire in the operating room."

A lawsuit was filed on March 4 against Holy Cross and other multiple doctors whom the complaint alleges they were negligent in this action. The complaint reads that "during the operative procedure Mrs. Bearman was supposed to undergo, Dr. Pasternak was the anesthesiologist who was responsible for providing MAC anesthesia to this patient. Dr. Pasternak was providing oxygen, via facemask, at 8 liters per minute at the time. Dr. Bermudez was utilizing electrocautery in close proximity to the flow of oxygen. Dr. Pasternak and Dr. Bermudez failed to communicate with each other concerning the utilization of oxygen via face mask and electrocautery in the proximity with the oxygen and as such created a dangerous, negligent and unsafe condition."

The complaint further alleges that "during the arterial biopsy performed by Dr. Bermudez, there occurred an operative fire caused by the combination of the presence of excessive oxygen and electrocautery with said fire causing burns to the face and additional burns on the chest, oral and nasal mucosal surfaces of Adele Bearman causing substantial pain, suffering, scarring, disfigurement, loss of ability to enjoy life, and serious bodily injury for which substantial care and treatment was required from her date of injury to her date of death."

Unsafe and neglected balcony railings lead to fall and catastrophic injuries

A month after falling off the balcony at a North Bay Village apartment complex, Jimmy O'Reilly is still at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Critically injured, it is still unknown whether Jimmy will be able to walk again.

In its on-camera investigation, Local 10 asked the same questions Tom Scolaro, attorney for Jimmy O'Reilly, has been asking; Where were the owner and the property manager? Why were the balconies and railings never fixed despite numerous complaints by multiple tenants?

"This was a recipe for disaster. You have an absentee owner and a property manager that was indifferent to the tenant complaints. Owners and managers must be responsible for maintaining their property. When they are not, and good people are gravely injured, it is our job to hold them accountable to the fullest extent the law allows" said Scolaro.

Despite numerous complaints by tenants about the condition of the balconies and railings, the property manager ignored the problems and did nothing to warn, repair or prevent the unavoidable. It was only a matter of time before one of the railings gave way and an innocent person fell.

Almost a month later, Jimmy O'Reilly, 36, is still in critical condition, and unable to walk. Jimmy also sustained a traumatic brain injury, and to this day, he has no recollection of what happened.

The day of the incident, the balcony railing at North Bay Village collapsed. "Jimmy did nothing wrong. He was leaning against a balcony at a friend's house and now he has to fight just to be able to walk again one day."

The owner of the building, Rudoph Faber, was cited in the past for conducting structural work in the building without permits. Since this incident, the city has required the property manager to have the entire building, including every single unit, inspected by engineers.

The building has 120 days from the date of the notice to repair all the balconies and railings, and bring the building up to code.

Will Florida finally pass regulations of the Parasailing Industry?

Yesterday, the Senate Committee pm Regulated Industries passed Senate Bill 320 by a unanimous vote of 9 to 0. Members of the Senate Committee had just finished hearing from families who have lost loved ones in parasailing accidents in Florida.

Thumbnail image for harness_parasailing.jpgAmong them, the family of Amber May White who tragically died in 2007 while parasailing with her younger sister Crystal. Leesfield & Partners represented the family and a confidential settlement was reached out of court. In 2007, as it is true today, the parasail industry is absolutely unregulated. Despite countless voices begging for this activity to be regulated, the industry has been operating completely free of any rules. Parasail operators are self-regulated, which often translates in utter lack of safety and proper training.

While yesterday was the first optimistic step in the right direction, it is 7 years removed from the fatal accident that has changed the family of Amber and Crystal forever. Click here to learn more about the events in that case and the lawsuit that ensued.

Among the proposed regulations, here are the most important measures that may become Florida law under Florida Statute 327.375:

- Minimum bodily injury liability insurance coverage of at least $1 million per occurrence and $2 million annual aggregate obrained and maintained by the owner or operator of the vessel;

- Proof of insurance must be available for inspection at the location where commercial parasailing is offered or provided for consideration;

- The insurance carrier's name and address and the policy number to customers requesting that information;

- A current and valid license issued by the United States Coast Guard to the person operating the parasailing vessel which is appropriate for the number of passengers and the size of the vessel;

- A parasailing vessel must be equipped with a functionnal VHF marine transceiver and a separate electronic device capable of providing access to National Weather forecasts and current weather conditions;

- An operator must use all available means to determine weather conditions and record this information in a weather log each time passengers are to be taken out on the water; and

- Recorded weather information should be available for inspection at all times at the operator's place of business.

Previous bills attempting to regulate the parasailng industry fail over the last 5 years. This new Senate bill is the latest and most promising to date. Let's hope that the legislator finally listens to its constituency and passes the very first law to regulate this dangerous activity.

Ira Leesfield recognized amidst the release of George Clooney's The Monuments Men

Appointed by President Clinton to investigate and track down looted Holocaust art and cultural treasures stolen during World War II across Europe, Ira Leesfield was recently recognized by the Miami Herald for the role he played in the U.S. Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets from 1998 to 2000.

The release of George Clooney's latest movie, The Monuments Men, has led many men and women to being honored at various Washington institutions that played major roles in the protection, investigation, and in several cases, rescue of European treasures during and after World War Two.

The Commission made several significant findings, some of which are below:

The Commission concluded that United States forces in Europe made extraordinary efforts to locate, safeguard, identify and restitute assets taken by the Nazis and their collaborators from victims of the Holocaust. Because of the enormity of Nazi crimes, the undertaking by U.S. agencies to preserve, protect and return looted assets was unparalleled in history and willingly carried out by a victorious power committed to righting the wrongs of a defeated enemy regime. U.S. military and civilian personnel encountered a myriad of obstacles under the very difficult circumstances prevailing in postwar Europe. Their achievements were nothing short of heroic.

Nevertheless, the restitution policy formulated in Washington, D.C. and implemented in the countries in Europe occupied by the United States could never fully address the unimaginable dimension and complexity of restituting assets to victims of the Holocaust. For the most part, the inadequacies in both policy and implementation reveal that U.S. authorities were driven by necessity. They were often unable to restitute all of the victims' assets under their control because of practical concerns that commingled with conflicting interests, priorities and political considerations. Restitution competed with, and was often subordinated to, the desire to bring American troops home, the need to rebuild devastated European economies and provide humanitarian assistance to millions of displaced persons, and the Cold War. These shortcomings can be partially explained as an unintended consequence of adherence to international legal principles, but the Commission's research has also revealed that, when it came to assigning scarce manpower and resources, the United States accorded a relatively low priority to restoring the looted assets and lost property rights of individual victims and their heirs.

With respect to many types of assets, the United States followed international legal tradition and undertook only to restore property to national governments, which it assumed would be responsible for satisfying the claims of their citizens. When the United States recognized that this arrangement excluded those who no longer had a nation to represent their interests, or who had fallen victim to the ruthless efficiency of Nazi genocide and whose property had been rendered heirless and unidentifiable, it designated certain "successor organizations" to sell heirless and unclaimed property and apply the proceeds to the care, resettlement and rehabilitation of victims. This innovation seemed to present an attractive alternative to the difficult and resource-intensive job of tracing individual ownership, but its adoption led many assets to be too hastily labeled as heirless or unidentifiable, with the result that they were assigned to the successor organizations, rather than returned to their rightful owners. This approach had a particularly negative impact on the ability to identify and restitute assets that had been taken from Roma and Sinti, homosexual, and disabled victims, who had no international organizations representing their interests.

Far more regrettable is the United States' failure to adequately assist victims, heirs and successor organizations to identify victims' assets, instead relying upon them to present their own claims, often within unrealistically short deadlines, with the result that much victim property was never recovered. Even when property was returned to individual owners or their heirs, it was often only after protracted, expensive and insensitive administrative proceedings that yielded settlements far less than the full value of the assets concerned.

While the overall record of the United States is one in which its citizens can legitimately take pride, even the most farsighted and best-intentioned policies intended to restitute stolen property to its country of origin failed to realize the goal of returning property to the victims who suffered the loss. Indeed, there remain today many survivors or heirs of survivors who have not had restored to them that which the Nazis looted. And, in large part, it will remain forever impossible to return the actual assets stolen from them over 50 years ago.

The uniqueness of the Holocaust does not negate its ability to offer lessons for the behavior of government in other contexts, and the Commission also believes that it is important that these findings lead our government to develop policies to promote the preservation and restitution of the assets of victims of persecution associated with future armed conflicts.

It is an enduring strength of American democracy that we can look honestly at the results of our actions, address their implications, and assess accountability and responsibility. In setting forth the following findings, the Commission does not imply that failures of policies to accomplish their goals are attributable to bad motives on the part of any official, agent or institution of the United States. Where combinations of policy and circumstance led to results that can be improved upon now, the Commission suggests ways to achieve these improvements. Where new facts have come to light that argue for changes in policy, the Commission proposes appropriate changes. The findings that are associated with particular policy recommendations are meant to locate those recommendations in the historical context and not to mechanistically quantify or assign dollar values to perceived historical shortcomings in U.S. policy making or implementation.

The Commission believes that this history, viewed as a whole, suggests that a series of actions to be taken now are appropriate to provide a modicum of justice to Holocaust victims and their heirs. It is the desire to do justice that animates American policy in this area, including this Commission's recommendations.