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Hotel, travel and tourism injuries rapidly increase with inadequate security and safety neglect on premises. Once again, Airbnb has been sued by a guest claiming another host at the property assaulted her. Of course, Airbnb and Vrbo do not do a background check which would have prevented this alleged sexual assault, nor do they have any security measures and typical keys, locks and door protection. This is a wide open area of vulnerability according to Leesfield Scolaro Founding Partner, Ira Leesfield who chairs the American Association for Justice Resort Torts Litigation Group.

There are ongoing battle rages between the hotel/public accommodation industry and Airbnb about the increasing shift of travelers from traditional hotels to less protected “homey” environments.

Airbnb not only fails to check on the guest, but also does not run background check or security analysis of the host renters. The lawsuit filed by Leslie Lapayowker, and reported in The Guardian contends that a background check would have uncovered the fact that the owner had been arrested and charged with battery, and prevented from listing his property on Airbnb. The plaintiff alleges that she was held in a chair, against her will, as the host proceeded to masturbate in front of her.

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Ira Leesfield, founder and managing partner of Leesfield Scolaro, P.A., was recently reappointed by Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio to serve on the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) representing the Southern District Conference for the duration of the 115thCongressional term.

The JNC performs a critical public service in helping to identify the most qualified candidates to serve as U.S. District Court Judges in Florida. The JNC’s recommendations guide which prospective nominees will be forwarded to the White House for the President’s consideration.

As a member of the JNC, Mr. Leesfield will play an active role in this thorough review process.

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Boating season is upon us, kicked off during Memorial Day weekend only days away.  During the last weekend of Spring, South Florida will once again become the boating capital of the world for many weeks to come, and each year around this time Ira H. Leesfield, renews its boating safety warnings to the public and businesses who partake in recreational boating.

Focusing on boat tours, South Florida offers a wide range of attractions that entertain countless visitors and locals alike.  Zipping through the Star Islands aboard a speedboat, gliding on an Airboat in the Everglades, renting a mini catamaran off Key Biscayne, touring the Florida Keys on a jet-ski, paddle-boarding with friends off the Bay, parasailing along North Miami Beach, kitesurfing or windsailing along Coral Gables and Coconut Grove, these are just a few available attractions where visitors rely on the experience, training, and competence of tour operators for their ultimate safety.

Unfortunately, there is no avoiding boat accidents at this time of year, yet, incomprehensibly, none of these accidents should ever occur.  Whether a boat tour operator drives its vessel too fast, in a careless manner, causing injuries or death to its passengers, or whether a boat capsizes due to the overloading of passengers, or even whether two vessels collide due to alcohol consumption or lack of training, every single boat accident is avoidable.

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004-TextingLawA new study revealed that 92% of motorists use their phone while operating their vehicle.  That reality must sink in.  Whether you are in traffic, stopped at a red light, making 60mph on the highway, a pedestrian walking across an intersection, a bicyclist on a Sunday morning run, or in an Uber, understand that you are simply 100% at risk of injury.  More and more, motorists see being in a moving car as being in a moving elevator: an opportunity to check emails, respond to texts, send a snap, read a story on Facebook, take a selfie to post on Instagram.  The obvious difference is one is potentially deadly.  This reality will remain true until we all operate self-driving vehicles.

For the last time, Floridians are undeniably on notice: Florida is the second-worst state for distracted driving.  The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ statistics show that a distracted driving-related accident will occur every 10-12 minutes in Florida.  That adds up to almost 50,000 crashes involving distracted-driving, and the consequences are life-altering, causing 3,500 catastrophic injuries and 233 deaths in 2016.

Just a few days ago, Ira H. Leesfield and Adam Rose published an op-ed titled “Texting while driving is nothing to ‘LOL’ about” in the Daily Business Review stressing the urgency of public officials to act before more lives are lost and affected by this behavioral epidemic.

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Steady growth and continued client satisfaction marks the 40th anniversary of Leesfield Scolaro, P.A., as our statewide practice expands.  This year, trial lawyers Mason Kerns and Adam T. Rose joined the Leesfield Scolaro team.

2-panel-Texas-mailer_Final-1_resize-236x300 2-panel-Texas-mailer_Final-2_resize-236x300The firm continues to serve the State of Florida as our offices from Key West and Central Florida attract local and out-of-state business.    A recent influx of clients and cases from the great state of Texas has allowed our firm to serve longtime co-counsel and friends with high value recent results.   See “Texas Cases from Texas Places” (right).  Texas visitors combined with clients and referrals from 26 other U.S. states, Canada, United Kingdom and around the world, have reinforced the firm’s cases from other places.

We have been fortunate to bring about outstanding results for clients nationwide and around the world, including:

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medical malpracticeWith the prices you pay at the hospital, you shouldn’t have to worry about asinine medical errors. Yet they abound. As quality medicine standard-bearer Johns Hopkins recently reported, medical errors are now the THIRD leading cause of death in the United States. The Johns Hopkins study was a follow-up to a similar report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  Startlingly, medical errors kill 250,000 people per year in the United States—trailing only (1) heart disease (614,000) and (2) cancer (591,000), and ahead of (4) stroke (133,103), (5) Alzheimer’s disease (94,000), (6) diabetes (76,000), (7) flu and pneumonia (55,000), (8) kidney failure (48,000), and (9) suicide (43,000). Not a good list to be near the top of, to say the least.

Perhaps the most avoidable of all medical negligence is the Unintended Retained Foreign Object (URFO)—a euphemism for “surgeon leaves [scalpel/sponge/forceps/clamp/scissors] in patient and sews her up.” A 2013 study found that hundreds of these events occur each year, many causing death. Ninety-five percent of UFROs resulted in additional care and/or an extended hospital stay. The total costs related to a UFRO is said to be $200,000 per incident.

Thankfully, the legislature and courts have rightfully decided that URFOs are a “never event” in a hospital—an event that, if people are being reasonably careful, will never, ever happen. In that vein, under Florida law, “the discovery of the presence of a foreign body, such as a sponge, clamp, forceps, surgical needle, or other paraphernalia commonly used in surgical, examination, or diagnostic procedures, shall be prima facie evidence of negligence on the part of the health care provider.” Fla. Stat. § 766.102(b).

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People who want to take your rights away depend primarily this supposition: America is full of useful idiots.

Exacerbating this problem is TV news, which is exactly as informative as a cartoon strip. Speaking of cartoon strips: Newspapers, the last bastion of actual journalism, continue to die. If not resuscitated soon, you won’t be able to line your cat box with them, let alone read a new edition.

If being un- or mal-informed hurt only one’s chances at winning trivia night at the local bar, that might be tolerable. The problem is that not understanding and misunderstanding issues changes how we think, act, and vote on important matters. And it’s killing us.

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In many of our personal injury and wrongful death cases, physical evidence is lost or destroyed long before we are retained by our clients.  After an incident, our clients are typically preoccupied by their injuries and medical treatment while defendants often dispose of the “smoking gun.”  This improper destruction of evidence is referred to as “spoliation.”  Common examples of spoliation include purging documents or records, failing to preserve video surveillance footage, disposing of dangerous objects, and prematurely repairing damaged structures without opportunity for inspection.  A party’s failure to preserve evidence can be extremely prejudicial in personal injury cases because the plaintiff, who bears the burden of proof, may not be able to prove their case without certain evidence.

Florida Courts have established standards for the preservation of evidence and certain sanctions that may be imposed for violating those standards.  In the recent case of League of Women Voters of Fla. v. Detzner, the Florida Supreme Court confirmed that all individuals and entities have a responsibility to preserve evidence in their possession where litigation is “reasonably foreseeable.”  Florida appellate courts have elaborated on this standard by holding that parties who willfully destroy evidence may have their pleadings or defenses stricken altogether.  If a defendant’s pleadings are stricken, the plaintiff essentially wins the case and must only prove the amount of their damages.  In less egregious circumstances, where a party destroys evidence inadvertently or unintentionally, the judge will generally allow an “adverse inference” jury instruction.  In other words, the judge will instruct the jury that they may infer that the party who destroyed the evidence did so because the evidence was unfavorable to their case.

The trial judge has broad discretion to impose sanctions for spoliation of evidence.  This determination will depend heavily on the conduct of the party who destroyed the evidence and all other attendant circumstances.  Often times, any sanctions granted are insufficient and leave the plaintiff with an uphill battle as they prosecute their case without the most crucial evidence.  Accordingly, it is imperative that injured parties retain experienced attorneys who will ensure that all evidence is promptly identified and preserved.

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The Supreme Court of the United States will answer this question in its upcoming term.ATM Fees

ATM fees are as ubiquitous as the machines themselves. Unless you go to your own bank, you’re going to pay a fee. The fees vary by location. At an ATM in a convenience store that is close to many other stores and ATMs, you’ll pay a little. At an amusement park, casino, or strip club—places with clientele who are captive, captive and desperate, and desperate, respectively—you’ll pay a lot more. However, the rate different customers pay at the same ATM will almost always be the same—whether your ATM card is a Visa or MasterCard or a Diner’s Club Card or a Texaco Gasoline Card or a Walden Books Card or Black AMEX.

The reason, according to a lawsuit that has worked its way up to the nation’s high court, is that Visa and MasterCard—proprietors of the two cards that account for a majority of U.S. ATM withdrawals—are fixing their prices. The U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia Circuit held earlier this year that the plaintiffs in an ATM fee-fixing lawsuit had made a showing of an agreement to fix prices that was robust enough to at least survive a motion to dismiss. This decision differed from the stances of the Third, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits. Enter: The Supremes, who will decide which circuit is correct.

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Jet SkiThe vast majority of recreational and tourist activities enjoyed in Florida are not regulated by the Florida legislature.  Most tour operators have complete freedom to operate their business virtually any way they see fit.  This usually results in a culture of maximizing profit to the detriment of customer safety.  Warning, instructing, and training tourists requires time, and time is money.

Fortunately, the Florida legislature has been proactive in regulating the boating industry, and specifically, jet ski rentals.  Under Florida Statute 327.54, anyone renting jet skis to the public, whether for a guided tour or independent use, must provide certain training and instruction prior to the rental.  This includes training regarding the operational functions, navigable rules, safe practices, and local hazards.  The law allows only certified instructors to provide the mandatory training, and the participants must sign off that they received the training.  Additionally, all renters born after 1988 must now pass a written examination covering jet ski safety at the rental site prior to the rental.  These safety requirements are a result of the enormous amount of jet ski collisions that have occurred throughout Florida as the industry has soared.

Clearly, these jet ski statutes promote safety for inexperienced renters and anyone who may come in contact with them in the water.  In our experience, however, these statutes are violated all too often.  Jet ski rental companies simply do not spend the time to train and instruct rental customers pursuant to the statutes.  They advertise to the public that jet skis are safe, entry-level devices that require no previous experience.  They then rush renters through the process and place them in the water to operate these dangerous instrumentalities with virtually no training and hope for the best.  In many cases our firm has handled, our clients were provided with no training or instruction at all.

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