Articles Posted in Car Accident

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Aaron Deveau is currently on trial, facing criminal charges including motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, being an operator under 18 using a mobile phone, being an operator reading or sending an electronic message, driving over marked lanes, and two counts of negligent operation and injury from mobile phone use.

This Massachusetts criminal case could be the first landmark case in the controversial topic of texting while driving, after the 17 year-old-teenager, Deveau, collided head-on with a pickup truck on Feb. 20, 2011, and killing 55-year-old Donald Bowley.

Had this accident occurred in Florida, Aaron Deveau would be freely walking down the streets of the Sunshine State with the comforting knowledge that he will never face criminal charges. The victim’s family on the other hand would only have a civil remedy against the negligent teenager.

In 2010 the state of Massachusetts has passed a law banning the use of mobile phones while operating a motor vehicle. A contrario, Florida is one of only six states in the country which continuously refuses to ban the practice of texting and driving. In fact, this year marked the 7th year in a row that the Florida legislature could have voted on a total or partial ban of the use of handheld mobile phones while driving and adjourned without producing a single distracted driving law.

Map of USA - Texting and Driving Ban.jpg

Image above courtesy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Ira H. Leesfield, as Senior Managing Partner of Leesfield Scolaro, has continuously been an advocate in favor of a total ban of the use of mobile phones when driving a motor vehicle. Recently, Ira Leesfield highlighted the main concerns and legal theories under which plaintiffs could attempt bringing civil cases against negligent drivers who caused injuries while using their cell phone: Driving + Cell Phones = Bad Call.

In an article published in the Miami Herald, Texting and driving a costly business risk, Ira Leesfield warned the corporate world of the dangers of having employees driving and using their cell phones. In 2007, an article published in the American Bar Association’s The Brief, Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, in which Ira Leesfield analyzes and discusses remedies and tactics for handling motor vehicle collision cases arising from cell phone use and distractions. This article can be downloaded here.
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On March 18, 2012, Alanna Demella was tragically killed at the Riverside Hotel when a car driven by Rosa Maria Rivera crashed into the hotel’s pool cabana built only a few feet away from the roadway.

We previously reported on this terrible accident here: Resort Death of Pregnant Woman Challenges Leesfield Scolaro

The Police investigation is still ongoing and, to date, very little information has been released to the public. In the last 72 hours however, we have learned that the Police is looking into Rivera’s potential driving under the influence at the time of the accident. Rivera admitted to the investigators that before the accident, she was with her husband at Mango’s Restaurant, less than two blocks away from where the accident occurred. She also admitted ordering appetizers and a alcoholic beverage. it is still unclear whether Rivera did drink her Martini.

What the investigation has revealed so far is that Rivera was in an angry state when she left the restaurant. Indeed, she told Police Officers that she left the restaurant because she had an argument with her husband. She claimed not having drunk the alcoholic beverage before sitting behind the wheel.

Witnesses to the accident did confirm that the car was going at a high rate of speed and Rivera must have lost control of her car as the only explanation why she drove her car straight into the cabana and why she failed to stay in her lane and make a light turn.

Regardless of whether Rivera was intoxicated at the time, there is no question that she was negligent for causing this accident and for taking the lives of Alanna Demella and her unborn child.

In our prior article (link above), we discussed the possibilities of Riverside Hotel’s negligence in this case. The cabana, as constructed, could have been too close to the roadway and may have been built in violation of rules imposed by the Florida Building Code.

Last week, a witness came forward and advised that there could be another potential defendant who contributed to this crash. From Mango’s restaurant to the scene of the accident, Rivera drove through the intersection of SE 4th Street and SE 8th Avenue. Said intersection did not have any traffic controlling devices such as a 3-way stop sign. In fact, vehicles traveling eastbound or westbound on SE 4th street did not have to stop at all while crossing that intersection.

Clip_2.jpgOnly months prior, that intersection was equipped with two additional stop signs (eastbound & westbound) but for some unknown reason, the traffic signs were removed. On the photo (right) you can still see the darker shade of paint covering the “stop lane”. The reasons for the removal of the stop sign is purely speculative at this stage. However, from inspecting the scene, it is very understandable why a stop sign was there in the first place.

Vehicles traveling westbound on SE 4th Street do not have to slow down before the light right-hand turn at the Riverside Hotel. The danger created by the absence of traffic control devices, such as a stop sign, is compounded by the peculiar absence of any signs alerting drivers that the roadway turns to the right. In fact, there are no markings on the pavement, and there are no traffic signs. A thorough investigation would help to show whether such lack of traffic signs and signage on the pavement of the roadway played a role in Rivera’s failure to make the turn and her car crashing into the hotel’s pool cabana.
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On Sunday March 18, 2012, Alanna Demella, 26, from Medford, Massachusetts, was tragically killed while on vacation in Ft. Lauderdale when an out-of-control vehicle traveling on a nearby roadway, slammed through a fence and crashed into the Riverside Hotel’s cabana building where Alanna was changing at the time. She was seven months pregnant and her husband was just feet away when the awful collision destroyed two support pillars and a wall of the cabana, taking the lives of the young woman and her unborn son.

Clip_s9_resize.jpgWhile at first blush this horrific resort-related death seems like a freak accident and the unfortunate luck of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, the causes of the accident certainly are not yet fully established. From a Personal Injury/Wrongful Death lawyers standpoint, the investigation as to the causative factors is much wider than just looking at the fault of the driver and her negligent operation of the vehicle. As is often the case in Florida, people carry minimal automobile insurance or sometimes none at all. Even someone with full coverage does not likely have enough in policy limits to cover the tremendous damages that this case would entail. Therefore for the Personal Injury/Wrongful Death lawyer, it is crucial to act as quickly as possible to preserve the scene and gather evidence than may no longer exist if left in the hands of nature or potential defendants. There may be other responsible parties that could have prevented this foreseeable incident. For example if there were prior crashes in the area or if the building structure was unsafe and building codes, permits and standards were violated. That is why it is of the utmost importance for the grieving family to act promptly in retaining counsel who specializes in these types of cases. Especially where the victim’s relatives are from out of state. This will allow for the family to put the work in the lawyer’s hands while they tend to the grieving process.

Leesfield Scolaro is one of the leading resort tort law firms in Florida. Our Resort Tort attorneys have helped countless out-of-state clients who were victims of resort-related incidents similar to the ones the Demella family is now sadly involved in. While Florida in general, and South Florida in particular, is a very popular destination for tourists, incidents do occur with frequency. Consequently, Ira Leesfield helped creating and currently serves as Chairman of the Resort Tort Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice (AAJ).

The first thing that should be done immediately in a case like this is an inspection of the resort property, impact area and vehicle. At Leesfield Scolaro, our team of lawyers, investigators and experts are on call seven days a week. We will go to the scene to take photographs and canvas the area for possible witnesses in order to take statements. We will also act quick to contact law enforcement and other investigating agencies to obtain and exchange information. A scene inspection must be conducted with an accident reconstruction expert to establish the speed and direction which the driver was traveling when she collided with the fence, and then the pillars. Properly reconstructing the accident and understanding the facts, can lead to other viable theories of causation.

Clip12_resize.jpgAnother issue that must be investigated locally is whether the Riverside Hotel was in compliance with the Florida Building Code and whether the cabanas, as built, had been inspected and approved by the Division of Professions Building Code Administrators and Inspectors Board. A full report of prior investigations and reports must be obtained to make sure that the construction of the cabanas were in fact legal and compliant with the Florida Building Code. A building code expert must be hired to not only review the findings of those reports, but to establish whether one or multiple violations existed which may have contributed to the destruction of the two pillars that held up the hotel’s cabana building. One other important area that must be looked into is whether the proximity of the cabana building to the roadway played a part in the cause and severity of the crash and whether the cabana building’s location was in compliance with the many building code set back rules and regulations Continue reading

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A life-altering collision for at least 2 young women occurred this morning at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Coral Way and SW 84th Avenue in Westchester, Florida, when their vehicle collided an 18-wheeler tractor trailer, driven by Larry Donell Robinson.

sClip.jpgLarry Robinson was lucky to walk away from this accident without a scratch, but sadly for the occupants of the white Honda Accord, they all were rushed to Kendall Regional Medical Center.

We have since learned that the driver of the Honda, Alexandria Estrella, 23, and Ana Posada, 18, are in critical conditions and still fighting for their lives. The other three passengers identified by police as Jovanni Oliva, Anthony Emmanuel Del Rio, and Moises Arnold Alvarez were also injured, but not critically.

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Estanislad Carlota was sitting on a bus bench last night at a bus stop located on Bird Road and Southwest 93rd Avenue in Miami, Florida. Jose Mendoza, 22 years old, lost control of his silver Dodge Neon and crashed into the bus stop. The vehicle flipped on its side and hit Estanislad Carlota. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Tom Pikul, Florida Highway Patrol spokesman, said the crash occurred at around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday in Westchester.
Video of Accident

Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the wrongful death incident and have yet to release much information to the public. After the incident, Mendoza waited at the scene for the police. He told investigators that he somehow lost control of his vehicle without explaining the reason why. FHP is looking at whether speed was a contributing factor to the accident. There is also a possibility that Mendoza became distracted from using his cell phone and veered off the road. Read Ira Leesfield’s article on how Driving and Cell phone use don’t mix.


In Florida, running over or colliding with a pedestrian while operating a car is a violation of the law. Florida Statute §316.130 (15) provides that “. . . Every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian . . . and give warning when necessary and exercise proper precaution . . . ” Florida Courts have upheld that when there is evidence of violation of a statute regarding a motorist’s duty to pedestrians, the party is entitled to a jury instruction of such duty. Leesfield Scolaro has been representing pedestrians and bicyclists in Miami, Key West, and throughout the State of Florida, who became victims of negligent drivers.
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A rear-end collision that ruined the life of a Jamaican handyman put him and Miami personal injury attorney Thomas Scolaro through a four-year quest for justice in state and federal courts.

Scolaro’s advocacy for Dwight Grant reached a turning point in Broward Circuit Court in May when jurors awarded his client $15.1 million. While jurors deliberated, however, Scolaro agreed to a conditional consent judgment with Farmers Insurance providing a maximum $5 million award and a waiver of Farmers’ right to appeal if Scolaro can prove bad faith in a subsequent trial.

He is confident that will happen.

Dwight Grant, then 22, was a back-seat passenger when the car he was riding in was stopped at a drawbridge and hit from behind by a drunk driver in Pompano Beach in 2007. He suffered permanent brain injuries that left him with short-term memory loss and chronic seizures. The other driver, Matthew Lyons, was fleeing police.

The original insurer, AIG’s 21st Century, which was purchased by Farmers in 2009, offered the policy maximum of $100,000. But it came with conditions Scolaro found unacceptable.

Nevertheless, the insurer sought enforcement, insisting it made a valid offer. Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning sided with AIG, and Scolaro appealed.

The 4th District Court of Appeal reversed in June 2009, noting the company’s general release was not routine. The insurer demanded Grant release other potential defendants even though they were not AIG customers.

AIG also required Grant to accept a nondisclosure clause and agree that all hospital bills had been fully paid. His medical bills exceeded $250,000, and he would need lifetime care. Scolaro made a counter offer of $755,000.

“The insurance company’s response did not constitute an acceptance of the offer made by the plaintiff. The trial court erred in enforcing the settlement,” Judge Martha Warner wrote for the appellate court.

Because Lyons was a convicted drunk driver and liability was established, the trial on remand focused on damages.

Grant was the twin brother of Dwayne Grant, and the two worked together as remodelers on home improvement projects. Dwayne stopped working to care for his brother. During trial, they were living in Uniondale, New York, but since then Dwight Grant has moved to Jamaica where his mother cares for him, and Dwayne has gone back to work.
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Under Florida law, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is one offense, proved by impairment of normal faculties or unlawful blood alcohol or breath alcohol level of .08 or above. The penalties upon conviction are the same, regardless of the manner in which the offense is proven. Florida Statute 316.193.

Living and working in Fort Lauderdale as a handyman, 22-year-old Dwight Grant’s life was changed forever when he became a DUI victim. Mr. Grant was sitting in the back seat of his friend’s car, stopped on the road, waiting for a raised drawbridge. A couple of blocks behind him, Matthew Lyons was driving his car uncontrollably and at a very high rate of speed. When Mr. Lyons made a left turn and faced the stopped traffic, it was too late for him to avoid the horrific rear-end car accident that ensued. The investigation revealed that Mr. Lyons was driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, with a blood alcohol level of .21, almost triple the legal limit.

As a result of this rear-end car accident, Dwight Grant sustained skull fractures, frontal lobe brain damage and facial fractures. He had corrective surgery to repair the fractures and was discharged after two weeks in intensive care. Following his release from the hospital, Mr. Grant developed a seizure disorder that is not controlled by medication. He is unable to resume work due to his uncontrolled seizures.

DUI Victim Attorney, Thomas Scolaro, of Leesfield Scolaro filed a civil lawsuit against Matthew Lyons for his negligent driving. The defendant alleged that although he was intoxicated, Mr. Grant’s seizures could have been better controlled in the future had he been more compliant with taking his anti-seizure medications and had he been more compliant returning for follow-up medical appointments. What the defendant failed to realize was that Mr. Grant did not always take his medication because his frontal lobe brain damage caused him to be very forgetful. Experts at trial testified that the degree of brain damage and the location of the damage in the frontal lobe controlled his decision making processes and affected his short-term memory.

After a five-day trial, the jury panel of 3 men, and 3 women jury panel found that the defendant was negligent. The jury found that Mr. Grant was unable to return to work in any capacity and awarded Mr. Grant $2.7 million for past and future lost wages, $6.7 million for past and future medical care, and $6 million for past and future pain and suffering.

The case, entitled Dwight Grant v. Matthew Lyons, Lower Tribunal Case No, 07-015561 (03) was tried before Judge Mily Rodriguez-Powell in Broward County, Florida.
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