Articles Posted in Resort Tort

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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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We all know that consumer products can be dangerous if used improperly. Everything from vacuum cleaners to jet skis have large, orange warning decals posted on them instructing users, “READ THE OWNER’S MANUAL PRIOR TO USE.” In the owner’s manual, users will find an extensive composition of warnings, diagrams, and instructions for the safe use of the product.

Owner’s manuals are often the focal point in product liability cases where it is alleged that a product is dangerous or the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings. In such cases, trial lawyers will introduce owner’s manuals to point out the adequacy or inadequacy of warnings and instructions.

Surprisingly, owner’s manuals are largely ignored by trial lawyers in personal injury cases involving presumptively safe consumer products. Our firm has handled many cases in which hotels, attractions, and tour operators have severely injured our clients by misusing OM.gifconsumer products. Parasailing ropes break, picture frame supports fail, beach umbrellas fly into guests, bungee cords snap, and the list goes on.

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Florida beaches and warm weather resorts throughout the Caribbean are packed with Spring breakers. We just returned from our annual Key West seminar navigating mopeds, bicycles, Hoverboards, skateboards, parasailers, jet skiers and the whole gamut of fun resort stuff. This week in Miami is the Ultra Music Festival, and Florida beaches, from the Panhandle to the Atlantic and Gulf Coast down to the Florida Keys are just mobbed.

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Tragically, we have already received a number of calls from students and the families of spring breakers on vacation reporting hazardous and dangerous conditions on the roads, in the water and at resort properties.

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Disney Century Pop Resort.jpgLast Sunday, 13-year-old Anthony Johnson was rescued by his family from drowning in a Disney Resort pool near Orlando, Florida. Yesterday, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office announced that Anthony had not survived and had been pronounced dead two days later.

Anthony, from Springfield, Missouri, was spending spring break vacation with his family in Central Florida. On Sunday evening, Anthony and friends were playing in the pool of Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Moments later, Anthony was found by his cousin at the bottom of the pool, in just 4 feet of water. Anthony’s father performed CPR until paramedics arrived on scene and took over the resuscitation efforts.

It is unclear at this time what may have cause Anthony to drown. Local news ABC15 reported that there were no lifeguards on duty at the time of the incident and signs “swim at your own risk” were posted. The Sheriff’s office investigation has just begun and could reveal some important elements of answers to explain the family who just lost their young son what may have caused him to drown.

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Ira Leesfield pushes for national attention as he appeared on Nancy Grace.
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The incredibly tragic event that occurred at the Orange Lake Resort on Wednesday could and should have been avoided. That is essentially what Orange County code enforcement officers confirmed after their on-site investigation of the miniature golf pond that took the life of Ashton Jojo.

mini+golf+electrocution.jpgAshton was playing miniature golf when her golf ball ended in one of the courses’ pond. She reached in to retrieve her ball that was submerged under a foot of water, and was electrically shocked as soon as she touched the water. A guest attempted to pull her out, but injured himself in the process. One of the witnesses began to perform CPR on the child. Ashton still had a pulse at that time, but once the EMS arrived and rushed her to Celebration Hospital, she stopped breathing and ultimately died.

The investigation quickly revealed that the pond’s electrical breakers were improperly installed or replaced. Allen Morton with the Orange County’s Division of Building Safety told media that for a water feature such as the pond in question, ground fault interrupter (GFI) breakers are required by code, but upon inspecting the wiring and the electrical pump, non-GFI breakers were used.
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An autopsy performed on the young Ashton Jojo, who died yesterday at a Central Florida resort, confirmed that the 11-year-old was fatally electrocuted.

As we reported earlier today, Ashton and her family were staying at a Kissimmee resort. Ashton was playing miniature gold, located on the premises of the resort, when she reached into a pond to retrieve her golf ball. As soon as she came in contact with the water, the young girl began to scream. Despite the aid of another guest, and a resort employee, Ashton could not be saved and she became unresponsive before EMS arrived on the scene.

pond.jpgToday, Orange County code enforcement officers inspected the site where the incident occurred and found numerous violations which would explain what happened. Among these violations, inspectors found that electrical breakers had been improperly replaced. According to Allen Morton of the Orange County Division of Building Safety. GFI breakers are also required for hot tubs and swimming pools.

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Ashton Jojo, an 11-year-old guest at an Orlando / Kissimmee Resort with her parents and young brother, died on Wednesday after she attempted to retrieve her golf ball from a pond while playing miniature golf.

As soon as the young Ashton reached inside the pond to get her golf ball, “she screamed as if she was in distress” said the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in a released statement. Christopher Burges, also a guest at the same resort, rushed to the rescue of the little girl when he heard the screaming, but as he grabbed the girl’s arm, he too became injured, and was unable to save her. Ashton was rushed to Celebration Hospital in Kissimmee where she later died.

Orange Lake Resort.jpgAshton’s family, from New York, was in Central Florida on vacation, where they celebrated Ashton’s eleventh’s birthday last Friday. Another witness to this tragic event told reporters that one of the Resort’s employees mentioned that the electricity to the pond may have had a “short”. By the time EMS arrived on the scene, the 11-year-old was not responding. The grandmother of one of Ashton’s friends spoke to reporters and said the girls asked her to go golfing with them, and she regrets saying no. “I wish to God that I would of gone because I might of made a difference and I’m going to have to live with that.”

The investigation is still ongoing and Deputies of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office have not confirmed the cause of death. If electrocution turns out to be what caused young Ashton’s death, this incident will be yet another resort tragedy that could have been avoided.

Resort tort incidents occur every year in Florida, whether in Orlando / Central Florida, or in Miami or the Florida Keys, in South Florida. Throughout the state of Florida, Leesfield Scolaro have represented countless victims of acts of negligence attributed to resort employees. Recently, Thomas Scolaro settled a claim against a Time-Share / Central Florida Resort for injuries one of its guests sustained while she was using a jacuzzi. Due to some electrical malfunction, the suctioning system of the tub began to pump unexpectedly and caused catastrophic spinal damage to a healthy young woman.
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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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