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Diver down flag

Diver down flag – Courtesy of diveasia.com

Recently, Leesfield Scolaro represented the family of a young child who was fatally injured while snorkeling by the propellers of a boat off of Cow Key Channel, in Key West, Florida.  Last weekend, a very similar incident took place, this time near Edward B. Knight Pier, formerly named White Street Pier.  While boating accidents involving swimmers / divers are statistically down, it remains one of the top 3 concerns in Florida according to the latest boating accident statistics released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (“FWC”).

In this latest tragedy, 29 year old David Corlew was spearfishing approximately 200 yards off the pier with fellow spearfisherman.  At around 8:30 a.m., a a twin-engine 32-foot commercial charter Sea Vee vessel operated by Robert Householder struck David Corlew, who was displaying a diver-down flag as required by Florida Law, which caused him to sustain traumatic leg injuries.

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At Leesfield Scolaro, P.A., we get this question a lot: I was injured by more than one person/corporation. Who is responsible for compensating me?

In long-ago passing Fla. Stat. § 768.81, Florida has adopted what is known as a “pure comparative fault” system. Under this regime, every party to an action, including the plaintiff as the injured party, is responsible for the proportion of the damages caused by his/her/its negligence.

Take, for example, a house fire with multiple defendants that cause severe, nearly deadly, third-degree burns on 90 percent of the plaintiff’s body and effectively paralyzes him. Pure comparative fault allows a jury to find, for example, that:

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On March 10, 2016, Leesfield Scolaro co-sponsored the Monroe County Bar Association luncheon honoring Appellate Judge Ed Scales. The overflow luncheon crowd warmly received Judge Scales’ analysis of recent appellate decisions. This event, which coincided with Spring Break, marks the 40th year founding partner Ira Leesfield has worked with lawyers and clients in the Florida Keys. Says Leesfield, “I was overwhelmed by the activity, congestion and crowds surrounding Spring break in the Florida Keys.” “Unfortunately, drinking, combined with driving, mopeds, bicycles and all water sport activities, is not always a safe combination,” noted Tom Scolaro who recently obtained a $41 million verdict against a local resort for negligent security.

Picture_001_Edited copy copy_resize.jpgIra Leesfield‘s career began in Key West with a $2 million medical negligence recovery against a Florida Keys hospital, followed by a $2.1 verdict for a motor vehicle/moped collision (Kemp v. AMR). In addition to settlements for medical malpractice, negligent security, water jet ski and boating safety, moped, bicycle and street safety, Leesfield Scolaro holds record verdicts for settlements in Key West and throughout the Florida Keys. These results include the crash of a tourist stunt plane in Marathon, resulting in the death of a young mother with two children.

Following catastrophic injuries to bicycle and moped operators, the firm has aggressively pushed the “Share the Road” campaign, as well as supporting Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and boating safety.

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Leesfield Scolaro, P.A., a leading Miami-based personal injury law firm recently announced Justin B. Shapiro is being named partner. He joined the firm in 2011 and will help lead the firm’s Recreational and Resort Litigation Section.

“As we enter our 40th year in practice this October, Justin’s promotion is a clear indicator of our continued growth,” said Managing Partner Ira Leesfield.

justin shapiro.jpgJustin received his juris doctor degree, magna cum laude, from the University of Miami School of Law, graduating at the top of his class, and was inducted to the Order of the Coif. He holds a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from the University of Central Florida. Since graduation, Justin has actively litigated hundreds of cases for the firm’s statewide practice, obtaining outstanding results in complex personal injury matters.

His verdicts and settlements for severely injured clients have been recognized by leading Florida journals and organizations. He will continue to focus his practice in the areas of personal injury/wrongful death, premises liability, auto and motor vehicle accidents, and complex personal injury cases.

He is actively involved in numerous professional organizations, including the Florida Justice Association, an organization dedicated to protect the rights of Florida citizens, the Dade County Bar Association and the Coral Gables Bar Association.

Justin is married to Karina Smuclovisky, who is also a practicing attorney. They reside in Coral Gables, Florida.
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Established in Key West for over 3 decades, Leesfield Scolaro has filed countless lawsuits in Key West. This year, Ira Leesfield and Tom Scolaro have already filed three wrongful death lawsuits either in Monroe County or cases that originated from the Florida Keys.

dyko1.jpgLast January, a lawsuit was filed against a driver who ran over a bicyclist. The victim was former NFL player, Christopher Dyko, who was riding along U.S. 1. The driver of the car, Domingo Veloso, was arrested at the scene after he returned a few hours after the incident. Veloso is facing criminal charges at this time.

This month, a lawsuit was filed in Miami-Dade County by the Florida Keys’ family of a young child who hung himself while he was taken in by a mental health center. “At 14, [L.V.] hit an emotional wall,” said Ira Leesfield to news reporters, adding the teen was depressed. “He had a lot of problems and just needed help.” “[The facility was] aware of his history,” and “he should’ve never been left alone.”

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In Florida, parents can be held criminally responsible if alcohol or drugs are consumed on their property during an “open house party”. Florida law provides clearly that “A person having control of any residence may not allow an open house party to take place at the residence if any alcoholic beverage or drug is possessed or consumed at the residence by any minor where the person knows that an alcoholic beverage or drug is in the possession of or being consumed by a minor at the residence and where the person fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage or drug.” F.S. 856.015(2).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underage consumtion of alcohol and other illicit drugs continues to ravage the lives of many youngsters and their families. In its latest report, the CDC notes that “alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs, and is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth. In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.”

Open house parties in Florida were front and center in the 1990s when a young male teenager was beaten to death by fellow guests of an open house party. The brutal beating took place in the front lawn of the house where the party occurred. The legislator reacted to the events and passed a new law, which is the current law stated above.

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Ira H. Leesfield, Senior Managing and Founding Partner of Leesfield Scolaro, recently sat down for an interview with the people at LawDragon. LawDragon is a legal media company that provides legal news, and features some of the nation’s leading lawyers in its Lawyer Limelight section. Below is an excerpt of Ira Leesfield’s interview:

Ira-Leesfield.jpg“What advice would you give attorneys wanting to go out on their own?

Ira Leesfield: If you are willing to make the sacrifice, work the hours and appreciate the responsibility of having your own firm – then go for it! If you are a builder, a motivator and want to be a leader in your community and beyond, the best vehicle is to get out on your own and do it. Don’t be hesitant, and be sure you have a strong support system for when times get tough. Last but not least, be sure to surround yourself with high quality professionals, it always helps to have someone to turn to for advice along the way.”

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Every year the Coast Guard, Florida Marine Patrol, and local law enforcement agencies note a marked increase in injuries and deaths stemming from the negligent and careless operation of marine craft and water recreational vehicles. Ira Leesfield, Chairman of the Resort Torts Section of the American Association of Justice, has written extensively on this topic pointing out “it is not just small water craft but jet ski, parasailing, and small water related activities that are contributing to the high incidents of serious injuries in the Florida keys”. Tourists and visitors from all over the United States and abroad descend on the Florida keys for the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean as well as inland waterways.

pic-diver-flag.jpgThe firm of Leesfield Scolaro has promoted water safety and the necessity of regulating parasailing activities which coupled with snorkeling, diving, fishing, and boating are a huge industry for Monroe County residents. Now, there is an added safety fact as cell phone use and texting creep into the prevention and safety issues surrounding water activities that require full concentration.

This firm is now seeing boating collisions where an operator was distracted by cell phone use and in recent years the death of a Key West child was indirectly linked to the boat operator’s cell phone inattention. Unquestionably the news for that weekend will be an unnecessary loss or tragedy which could have been prevented by greater diligence and better enforced navigational rules. The waters surrounding the Florida keys are a majestic natural resource which must be treated with respect. Just recently, we are seeing injuries and deaths related to diving and pool activities including electrocution from water source. Leesfield Scolaro completed a $10 million result for electrocution from a faulty pool wire. Families must be on the look out and diligent to watch their young children in any water related environment. Hotels and other forms of lodging must be careful and selective about which vendors they allow to use their facilities for the purpose of water recreation rental.
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In a recent study published by Dangerous by Design 2014, South Florida, including the Florida Keys is the fourth most dangerous area in the entire country for pedestrians.

Between 2003 and 2012, over 47,000 pedestrians were killed in traffic-related accidents. The top 3 worst areas for pedestrians are New York, Los Angeles, and South Florida, which alone accounts for 1,539 pedestrian fatalities.

The Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) is an indicator which measures the likelihood of being killed as a pedestrian along major roadways. The index is based on the amount of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents and percentage of people who commute on foot. The national average for the PDI is 52.2. South Florida’s score was 145.33.

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As just discussed in our most recent post “Settlement reached in Florida Keys seven mile bridge fatal car accident” head-on crashes in the Florida Keys is all too common. Yesterday, 22-year-old Kristine Rivera was killed when the vehicle she was in, operated by Didier Miles, 24, slammed head-on into a taxi that was stopped on Overseas Highway, waiting to make a turn.

Head-on collision.jpg

Islamorada Fire-Rescue firefighters wheel Didier Miles to an ambulance Monday evening. (Photo taken by David Goodhue- Courtesy of KeysNet.com)

Details of the accident have yet to be released to the public, however it is likely that speeding and/or distraction may have been the cause for the umpteenth time. A witness came forward and said to a Miami Herald reporter that Kristine Rivera, the now deceased woman, rear-ended his vehicle approximately 4 miles south of where the fatal accident occurred.

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