Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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Experienced personal injury lawyers know all too well that dangerous conditions exist all around us as soon as we leave our home. Over the past four decades, Leesfield Scolaro’s trial attorneys have seen unsuspecting members of the public suffer horrific injuries as a result of just about every conceivable construction defect, building code violation, and failure to use the slightest degree of care in maintaining premises.

In many premises liability cases, inspection of the injury location is the defining moment of the case. The attorney brings his or her wealth of experience to the scene to evaluate the conditions, and equally important, the retained experts conduct their scientific testing. The vast majority of trial lawyers appreciate the importance of site inspections; however, the need to conduct inspections immediately is often lost. Trial lawyers must do everything possible to secure their inspection as quickly as possible, which may dictate the strategy of their representation. In many cases, the failure to conduct an immediate inspection may jeopardize crucial evidence or even doom the case altogether.

IMG_3525_resize-300x200Take for example a case our law firm recently resolved involving a negligently maintained bathtub surface at a Days Inn hotel. Our client turned on the water, took one step onto the tub surface, and slipped immediately, resulting in a significant hip fracture. Our client reported to us that the shower surface was so slippery it felt like she stepped onto ice. She explained that the anti-slip coating on the surface appeared to be excessively worn and neglected. By the time the client contacted us, weeks had already passed, and the bathtub surface remained in service for other guests. Under the law, we would not be able to arrange an expert inspection of the tub until a lawsuit was filed. Accordingly, we refused to delay by trying to resolve the case without litigation. We immediately filed our lawsuit and, with the lawsuit, served on the hotel a Notice of Inspection for the earliest possible date the rules of procedure allowed. Later, when the hotel’s attorneys asked to postpone the unilaterally scheduled inspection, we respectfully declined in the interest of our client. The inspection proceeded just weeks after we were retained, and our expert engineer confirmed the hotel’s failure to comply with industry standards for slip resistance. The most crucial evidence in the case was preserved, and the hotel ultimately settled with our client for $675,000. Had we not aggressively pursued an immediate inspection, the hotel would have had a valid argument that a later inspection would not be representative of the conditions at the time of our client’s fall due to “months and months” of continued wear and tear by continued use, scrubbing, cleaning solutions, and so on.

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On Wednesday, a 17-hour search effort concluded after divers found the body of a  2-year-old boy who had been snatched by an alligator right in front of his dad.   The wild animal attacked Lane Graves who had been playing around in the water of the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at around 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday night.

Catastrophic unavoidable accidents occur every day all across the country, but when someone or some entity’s negligence causes a catastrophe, it no longer is an accident, and it surely was avoidable.

What do we know about the Seven Seas Lagoon where the incident occurred?

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They say “a picture is worth a thousand words.” As we have seen in many of our premises liability cases, pictures can be worth far more. When our clients are severely injured as a result of dangerous or defective premises, their health is understandably their primary focus. Pain and shock take over. An ambulance is often called to rush the victims away from the scene for medical evaluation. slipping-154577_960_720.png The last thing on their mind is preserving evidence by taking photographs of the dangerous condition. Who can blame them?

Our firm recently handled a case that demonstrated just how important it is to photograph the scene after an injury. Our client was leaving a fast food restaurant when she slipped while walking down an outdoor staircase. She fell down several stairs to the ground and suffered severe injuries, requiring multiple surgeries. When her husband met her in the emergency room shortly after the incident, she explained that her foot slipped off a stair that felt “slimy” and “oily.” Her husband drove to the scene of the incident shortly thereafter and noticed that the stairs were covered in thick layers of mold and mildew, which are known to be extremely slippery on walking surfaces. He also noticed the restaurant employees preparing to scrub the staircase with soap and industrial brushes in response to his wife’s fall. He immediately took out his cell phone and snapped several photographs of the filthy staircase before it was scrubbed.

Months later, the general manager of the restaurant was shown these photographs at her deposition. She had no choice but to admit that the staircase was unacceptable and unsafe for guests. This allowed our firm to secure a settlement that covered 100% of her medical expenses and lost wages, and a substantial additional sum for her pain and suffering. Had her husband not taken those photographs, it would have been far more difficult to prove the extent of this hazard, or that the hazard existed at all.

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An explosion took place this afternoon in Sunny Isles Beach. Early reports mention a gas leak in the boiler room of a high rise condo was responsible for the damages. As many as 6 people have been reported injured on site, and off site, including a person who was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

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Boiler rooms require extensive and appropriate maintenance in order to avoid potential devastating consequences to members of the public and residents. Natural gas is one of the most widely used fuels for heating commercial and industrial properties. The dangers of gas leaks is they can go undetected for a significant period of time, and they present a clear and present explosive risk leading to structural damage, or worse, the loss of life.

A proper and adequate maintenance plan must be in effect to prevent against leaks and any other types of dangers that boiler rooms present. An automatic gas detection system will provide early warning of a gas release during unmanned periods.

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jungle island drowning.jpgEarlier today at Miami’s Jungle Island, a 7-year-old child, who was on a field trip with his summer camp, nearly drowned on Jungle Island’s beach front. According to early reports, the children were playing in the water when suddenly a lifeguard saw a child dropping under water. He quickly came to the rescue of the child and administered CPR on the beach.

Miami Department Fire Rescue Captain Ignatius Carroll did not identify the child by name, but did share that the parents had been informed of what happened. The child was emergently transported to the Pediatric Unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in cardiac arrest.

The latest report available stated that the young child was in stable condition at this time.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A landowner owes two duties to its business invitee: (1) he must use reasonable care to keep his premises in a reasonably safe condition; and (2) he must give the invitee warning of concealed perils which are or should have been known to him, and which are unknown to the invitee despite the exercise of due care. Furthermore, a landowner is liable for injuries caused by inadequate lighting in that the lighting failed to show the true size, shape, and height of curbing over which patron tripped.

Recently, Leesfield Scolaro resolved a personal injury claim on behalf of a Canadian tourist who sustained massive facial injuries when he tripped and fell face-first on the corner of a sidewalk in Palm Beach County. The incident was caused by the lack of illumination, which at the time, should have been in operation.

A local ordinances provides in part that minimum-maintained lighting shall be provided from dusk until thirty (30) minutes after the termination of business each operating day. According to records from the ambulance company and testimonies gathered from the witnesses, the incident occurred well after duck, at a time where multiple lighting poles should have been in operation. There were not.

dark-parking-log.jpgAs a result, this Canadian tourist, who was unfamiliar with the premises at dusk, tripped over an unlit obstacle and fell forward. He sustained multiple fracture to his nose and orbital bone which have caused life-altering and debilitating changes in his life, and personality. This claim was recently resolved before trial for $262,500.

The aggressive representation by Leesfield & Parters allowed to establish multiple failures on behalf of the defendant owner including:

  • Failure to provide adequate lighting to the premises so as to ensure the safety of business invitees
  • Failure to inspect the premises regularly and to maintain the premises so as to protect business invitees from encountering dangerous and hazardous conditions
  • Failure to inspect the lighting and lighting poles of the premises regularly
  • Violation of multiple local ordinances and Florida Statutes requiring minimum0maintained lighting at certain hours of the day

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Each year, an average of 61,000 carbon monoxide poisoning incidents occur in the United States, resulting in more than 30% of victims to be treated for carbon monoxide exposure. More importantly, an estimated 480 people die every year because of the silent killer that is carbon monoxide. (Statistics by the National Fire Protection Association can be found here)

kings_point440_128161a.jpgThis past weekend in New York, forty-two students residing on the Long Island, New York campus of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy were hospitalized and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning after the gas leak was found after 9 p.m. Sunday night. When the gas leak was discovered, students and residents of the Academy’s Barry Hall were asked to evacuate the building – a total of 150 students were evacuated as a precaution without incident.

The law firm of Leesfield Scolaro and our carbon monoxide attorneys are all too familiar with carbon monoxide poisoning incidents and their catastrophic effects on poisoned victims. Recently, Ira Leesfield and Thomas Scolaro represented over a dozen families who had been exposed to carbon monoxide during their stay at a Key West Resort. That incident resulted in the wrongful death of a young man and injuries to several other guests. The investigation led by the Florida Division of State Fire Marshal noted in its report that two of the boilers of the resort had not been inspected where in Florida, boilers of that size and type were required to be inspected every two years. The failure to have these boilers inspected prevented the resort from discovering clear evidence of soot accumulating on the outer part of the shroud that covers the burners, as well as soot found along the bottom wall, floor and behind the boilers.

Investigators also determined that there was a large 90-degree elbow aimed towards the east into the prevailing winds on the roof. This alteration caused a back draft down the exhausting vent preventing the proper exhaust of carbon monoxide. Therefore, as the back pressure increased in the exhaust pipe it reduced the availability of oxygen to the burners causing an incomplete combustion at the burner level. It turned what would normally be a blue flame into a yellow-orange flame causing the creation of carbon monoxide and soot/smoke. This in turn caused an excessive amount of carbon monoxide build up in the boiler room.

To further compound the problem, the carbon monoxide could not escape the boiler room due to the boarding up of the louvers on the boiler room doors, which were designed to permit proper air circulation. This prevented the complete combustion from occurring and prevented the escape of carbon monoxide. As the concentration of carbon monoxide grew in the boiler room it further prevented ambient air from entering the boiler room. During this time, the furnace continued to consume the remaining oxygen in the boiler room until it self-extinguished causing the boilers to automatically shut down.

After several months of litigation, these carbon monoxide victims entered into a confidential settlement with the resort for their injuries.

More recently, Thomas Scolaro represented students who were exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping in a university house. The investigation led by the local Fire Department confirmed that, upon entry, readings taken in the main section of the house showed over 200 ppm of Carbon Monoxide. With such elevated and dangerous readings, the investigation halted to let the ventilation process continue. When it was safe to resume, the investigators found that the exhaust pipe for the gas furnace that was heating the house was not exhausting the carbon monoxide, which led to a gas build up throughout the house.

Because our law firm continues to represent victims of carbon monoxide poisoning, Leesfield Scolaro became the voice of Florida victims of CO exposure. Due to the relentless efforts of former Florida Justice Association (FJA) President Ira Leesfield, Senate Bill 1822 was adopted, and became effective July 1, 2008.
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