Articles Tagged with “Michael Demella”

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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 & Partners

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 & Partners 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 & Partners, 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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