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jet-pack-300x199Over the course of Leesfield Scolaro’s 42-year history, we have seen a remarkable increase in grievous injuries and fatalities with the evolution of the watersports and boating industries. As water excursion operators compete vigorously for the consumer dollar, the tours, vehicles, and equipment they offer become more thrilling, and in turn, more dangerous. We now live in a world where traditional boat charters and snorkeling excursions are not enough. The public now craves the thrill of high speed jet ski tours, parasailing at 800 feet in the sky, water-propelled hover boards and jet packs, amphibious duck boats, paddle boards, and so on. The industry is producing so many new products and services that it is impossible for the government to properly regulate the activities. This inevitably results in tragedy as members of the public put their lives in the hands of poorly trained excursion operators with negligently maintained equipment.

A prime example made national news in July 2018 when an amphibious duck boat capsized and claimed the lives of 17 passengers in a southwestern Missouri lake. Duck boats are unique vehicles that resemble a bus while traveling on land but can also operate as a boat in the water. Regulations are spotty, however, because they are technically neither a bus nor a boat. This particular tragedy encompassed all of the notoriously dangerous elements of water excursions that we have seen in our practice for decades: (1) an inherently dangerous vehicle, (2) reckless and poorly trained employees, and (3) a failure to provide necessary safety equipment.

Over the years, Leesfield Scolaro has successfully prosecuted a large number of cases involving traditional and novel water-related incidents, including:

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For the past 22 years, March has been an eventful month for our law firm and the Monroe County Bar Association. This year is no different, as we welcome Supreme Court Justice Fred Lewis and Third DCA Judge Ed Scales as keynote speakers to our CLE luncheon to be held at Mangoes Restaurant on March 28th. The luncheon is sponsored by our Firm and is complimentary. Two CLE credits are available to those in attendance. Our judicial guests will address current and significant changes in judicial administration. Over 70 guests have already responded to this sold out event.

Keeping with the tradition of welcoming and celebrating the important work of our judiciary, the day continues with our Annual Conch Fritter and Margarita Party from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

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The Leesfield Scolaro social gathering has become an important tradition for the past 22 years and brings together clients, friends, judicial administrators and court personnel, as well as all of the Monroe County judiciary. As usual, the venue is our historic Key West office.

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Key-West-House-216x3002017 was, again, a record year for verdicts, settlements and community contributions for Leesfield Scolaro. Clients from around the country and local residents of Key West and the Florida Keys selected our Firm in over 25 separate matters, including injuries from watersports, motor vehicle injuries, bicycles, moped disasters, hotels and resort injuries and many unimaginable events to visitors and residents alike.

When a private transportation bus crushed the vehicle of our clients visiting from Orange, Virginia, the result was a mediated settlement in excess of $1 million. The case was resolved in less than a year with our clients getting the financial assistance to put their lives together again.

A brief look at our Firm’s noteworthy results over the year would include:

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Picture_001_Edited-copy-copy_resize-244x300Leesfield Scolaro continues its community involvement in Key West and Monroe County as it enters its 44th year as personal injury trial counsel.

In 1973, our managing partner Ira Leesfield, tried a wrongful death case on behalf of a Navy family, resulting in a widely known verdict. Since that trial, Leesfield and his partners have been called on to represent local families and visitors from all over the United States and the world.

Partner Thomas Scolaro has noted that our firm has tried to verdict and settled more substantial cases than any firm practicing in Key West. Mr. Scolaro’s $40.5 million verdict in September 2007 is certainly a record. However, the firm has a number of seven figure settlements and verdicts having represented many families and leaders of Monroe County.

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-Cases Resolved in Key West and Monroe County on a rapid increase.

In our 40-year practice in Key West and Monroe County, we have seen the trend for serious and unnecessary injuries and deaths increase for a number of reasons.  First, the number of visitors from the United States and abroad to Key West/Monroe County has now topped three million per year.   Moreover, poorly maintained streets, bicycle and moped activities and heavy selling of water sports have contributed greatly to this trend.   Key West is now much more than visiting the Ernest Hemingway House or the Truman Little White House.  We now see cases where children’s hands have been attacked by sharks in the tank, serious boating and jet ski accidents.  Inexperienced excursion guides with a  lack of supervision are major culprits in this recent increase.  All along Duval Street, local vendors are selling snorkeling trips, diving tours, parasailing tours, boating, jet ski, bicycle  and moped rentals.   After the purchase, the unknowing, entrapped, unsuspicious visitor is then poorly supervised or instructed.   There are no directions on how to use land based or aquatic equipment.   Representative results from this category of neglect includes:

∙    Family involved in a jet ski/boat collision awarded $1 million.

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This morning three workers became trapped when they investigated the reason for the newly-paved Long Key Road was settling.  Their investigation took them inside a drainage manhole, from which none of them came out alive.  The three victims were working on a road project for Douglas N. Higgins, General Contractor.

When first responders arrived on scene, a volunteer firefighter with Ley Largo Volunteer Fire Department and two deputies with Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, they had to go inside the manhole themselves in an attempt to rescue the three workers.  Two of the workers who had collapsed, probably due to some toxic fumes, were pronounced dead at the scene.  Later in the day, the body of the third worker was recovered hours later, deeper inside the manhole.

Once the rescue was over, the volunteer firefighter also collapsed and was emergently transported to Mariners Hospital.  Soon after, the two deputies part of the rescue were also sent to the Hospital.  However, due to the firefighter’s condition qualified as critical, he was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami at Ryder Trauma Center.

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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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