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Attorneys Justin Shapiro and Adam Rose successfully recovered over $700,000 in settlements on behalf of their clients who sustained lower limb fractures. In both cases, our clients were guests at separate Key West hotels, and both fell victim to the hotels’ failure to warn and failure to adequately light concealed steps.

In the first case, Partner Justin Shapiro established that the concealed step was not only dangerous, but illegal for violating the 1992 Florida Building Code. Furthermore, the hotel failed to make the dangerous step “readily apparent” or to provide a handrail which was a violation of the NFPA Life Safety Code. Lastly, to add insult to injury, the hotel left its guests at the mercy of an illegal and dangerous step by not even warning them of the dangerous condition. Under such circumstances, it was beyond foreseeable that guests would fall and sustained life-changing injuries.

In the second case, Attorney Adam Rose faced similar code violations, but our investigation also showed that the hotel owners did not just fail to address a dangerous condition, and actually created it. Adam Rose established that the previous hotel owners had remedied the dangerous condition by adding adequate lighting which warned guests of the step down. However, when the new hotel owners took over, they made the decision to remove the lighting but failed to address / remove the underlying dangerous condition. All of this came into evidence via deposition of the previous owners and as a result, the hotel swiftly settled the lawsuit.

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Miami Attorneys Thomas Scolaro and Adam Rose have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sunset Watersports, the company operating the parasailing tour that resulted in the death of Nicholas Hayward. Mr. Hayward is survived by his 10-year-old son.

On July 17, Sunset Watersports’ boat captain, Andrew Santeiro, harnessed Nicholas and his girlfriend to their parasail and launched them in the air despite dangerous weather conditions. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s investigative arm has already concluded that “severe weather [was] a contributing factor”. Scolaro says that, “this incident would not have occurred but for Sunset Watersports’ utter disregard for the safety of its passengers and violations of Florida Law.” Scolaro further says that “Witnesses have already confirmed that the boat operator was displaying a ‘cowboy attitude’ ignoring passengers’ screams to slow down. Passengers report the operator never should have put them out there because they could not even stand on the deck without tipping over.”

Florida Statute 327.375 prohibits parasailing if the observed wind conditions are more than 20 mph or wind gusts are more than 25 mph. “Laws mean nothing if your health and safety are in the hands of cowboys who do not think the law applies to them. A young boy will grow up without a father because a boat operator wanted to play chicken with mother nature.”

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This week, a tragic parasailing incident took the life of 36-year-old Nicholas Hayward and critically injured 28-year-old Azalea Silva. This is a very sad reminder that Florida laws regulating – or attempting to regulate – the parasailing industry are still utterly inadequate and do not protect life. A very similar case was handled by Leesfield Scolaro in 2007, which resulted in the passage of the very first law of its kind in the state of Florida. Ira Leesfield and Thomas Scolaro have been at the forefront of this issue, and it is time for reform.

The Miami Herald has reported on the latest incident that the commercial boat used to launch tourists up their parasail was operated by Sunset Watersports. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which investigates all boating accidents, has already stated that “severe weather [was] a contributing factor with this boating accident.” The spokesman for FWC, Officer Bobby Dube, described to reporters that the boat was operating in the middle of “harsh weather” when the incident occurred at around noon. Dube added that the incident took place as the duo began their ascent, they apparently fell very quickly and crashed in the water.

Regulation of the Florida parasailing industry is very light. The Amber May Law came into effect on October 1, 2014. It was named after Amber May, a young teenager who perished in a similar parasailing incident in 2007 in Broward County. Amber and her younger sister were also sent in the air as a duo in the middle of severe weather. Neither the small boat nor the rope could resist the high winds, and ultimately the rope snapped. The girls were catapulted against nearby buildings and hotels.  Crystal, Amber May’s sister, lost her best friend and sustained a traumatic brain injury in an incident that was 100% preventable.  Leesfield Scolaro filed suit against multiple defendants immediately and secured a settlement on behalf of the family.

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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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