Cruise Ship Passenger Rescued Off Coast of South Florida

On September 3, a 34-year-old man who fell off a Carnival cruise ship was later rescued by a Disney cruise ship about 30 miles off the coast of Port St. Lucie, Florida. According to a story by InjuryBoard.com, the man was aboard the Carnival Sensation and was treading water for about an hour and a half. The Disney Wonder and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to notification that the man had gone overboard and the man was rescued at about 12:45 a.m.

The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office determined that the man jumped off the boat from a stateroom balcony, according to MyFoxOrlando. One passenger said that they heard the man arguing with a woman, threatening to jump, shortly before he fell overboard. The Carnival ship stopped, and the crew attempted to send a rescue vessel, but it tipped over. The man was eventually brought back to Port Canaveral. He was taken to the hospital for evaluation.

Injury Board reports that Carnival has had eight people go overboard this year, and 38 since 2000, which is the most of any cruise line, according to Ross Klein, who runs the Cruise Junkie website. Incidents such as this are not uncommon to cruise lines. Last year, ABC News reported on a Florida woman, Jennifer Ellis Seitz, fell over the balcony of the Norwegian Pearl on Christmas night. A week later, an employee of the Carnival Sensation went overboard off the coast of Florida.

An expert also told ABC that in 2008, 16.8 million people took cruises, with 11 million being Americans. The concern is that most of these accidents occur on large commercial ships which carry thousands of people onboard. As ticket prices go down and trips become more popular and more available to younger guests, issues with excessive drinking and lack of supervision and safety become a great concern. However, cruise lines have responded with security cameras and increased training for personnel on board.

Cruising is especially an important issue in Florida, with its many ports in Tampa, Miami, and Canaveral, among others, and availability of cruises from all the major lines such as Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Because all cruise lines are not impervious to accidents, groups such as International Cruise Victims have formed to aid cruise victims by pushing for legislation and providing a forum for discussion and reporting on cruise accidents.

It is important to note that the handling of Cruise Ship Cases is a specialized area of Personal Injury Law. Most personal injury attorneys do not handle these cases on a regular basis and as such are not aware of the specific laws concerning cruise ship negligence cases. For example, in a typical personal Injury or negligence case, pursuant to Florida Stautes an injured party has four years from the date of injury in which to pursue his claim in a court of law. On the other hand, in a Cruise Ship negligence claim, the passenger ticket is viewed as a valid contract and contains a clause which places limits on the time and place of an injured passenger’s claim for injury. Pursuant to contract, an injured passenger has only one year from the date of injury in which to file a claim in a court of law for their injuries and most passenger ticket contracts also mandate that any lawsuit for personal injury must be filed in a specific forum; which is usually Miami Federal Court. Our firm is fully aware of the intricasies of cruise ship cases and has successfully represented numerous clients who have been injured in cruise ship accidents in the Miami Federal Court System.

New Evidence Found In Former MLB Player’s South Florida Auto Accident Case

A new videotape has been found which may aid former New York Yankee Jim Leyritz’s DUI manslaughter case which was to begin this September. In 2007, at about 3:19 a.m. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, police claim that Leyritz was drunk and ran a red light, causing an auto accident and killing 30-year-old Freida Veitch of Plantation.

According to the Miami Herald, the videotape, recorder a half block from the accident from a light pole, reveals a time stamp which is sooner than what has been alleged, and could aid Leyritz’s defense by casting doubt on the toxicology results. The defense says that the earlier time span from which the accident occurred would call to question the effect that alcohol had on Leyritz’s driving.

If convicted, Leyritz could face 15 years in prison. He is currently out on bond awaiting trial which, because of the surfacing of this video, may be postponed until as late as January. Leyritz faced legal troubles earlier in July when his ex-wife accused him of domestic battery.

This story Jim Leyritz is unfortunately one of many similar stories of late putting the spotlight on the consequences of drunk driving in South Florida. In March, professional football player Donte Stallworth pled guilty to DUI in an auto accident in Miami Beach, which resulted in the death of a pedestrian. In July, actor Jeffrey Donovan, star of USA’s hit series ‘Burn Notice’ was also arrested in Miami Beach on suspicion of DUI when he almost hit a police car.

South Florida has been a hot spot for celebrities for many years, from professional athletes to stars of the stage and screen. Florida’s beaches and cities known for their nightlife such as Fort Lauderdale and Miami attract visitors from all over the world. However, average citizens and celebrities alike are all subject to the same laws and regulations. Every person is innocent until proven guilty in our legal system and each case must be looked at under its given circumstances. Florida’s laws are in place to assure us that our streets are safe, and that those violators, whether an everyday resident or a high-profile celebrity, will be punished fairly and without any preferential or unreasonably harsh treatment.

South Florida Doctor Sued for Penile Implant Injury

A man in the Miami-Dade area is suing an urologist for malpractice after undergoing a penile-implant surgery which resulted in an infection and the removal of most of the man’s penis.

According to the Miami Herald, 62-year-old Enrique Milla claims that South Florida urologist Dr. Paul Perito performed the surgery, done to treat erectile dysfunction, without informing him of the risks involved with penile implant procedures among people with diabetes. The procedure was done in August of 2007. An infection developed which led to gangrene, ultimately resulting in the removal of most of the man’s penis. Furthermore, Millas is now also unable to have sexual intercourse and must sit down to urinate.

Dr. Perito is based in Coral Gables, FL and is considered a leader in penile implant surgery. According to his website, Dr. Perito has performed over 2,000 penile implant surgeries, and “The Perito Penile Implant” was developed by the doctor through his many years of experience. Both sides differ on their opinion as to whether diabetes is a factor which would make such as surgery too risky to perform.

Auto Accident in Fort Lauderdale Kills Cyclist

A cyclist was found dead from an auto accident on Friday, August 28, in an auto accident which occurred shortly after midnight on State Road AIA in Fort Lauderdale. The Miami Herald reported that the cyclist was heading northbound when a Mercedes Benz, also headed northbound, collided with the cyclist.

Police had not released the man’s name because they had yet to notify the family. The cyclist was pronounced dead at Broward General Medical Center. Police continue to investigate whether the driver was under the influence at the time of the accident.

While driving under the influence is speculative in this case, it brings up a concern that Florida drivers are no stranger to. Concerns for drunk driving grow on holiday weekends, such as this weekend’s Labor Day. According to a study referred to in a previous blog entitled “Broward County auto accident puts eight in hospital”, last year there were 36 fatalities on Labor Day weekend, 12 of which were alcohol-related. That same study showed that, in 2008, there were 4,380 bicyclist injuries and 118 bicyclist fatalities in traffic accidents.

The Florida DMV calculates that, in 2006, there were 1,606 DUI convictions in Broward County and 1,824 convictions in Miami-Dade County. Statewide, there were 34,638 convictions. While this reflects an 8 percent decrease from 2005, the numbers are staggering.

However, Florida has enforced strict laws to crack down on drunk driving. Florida’s zero tolerance law enforces an automatic 6-month suspension for any driver under the age of 21 who has a blood alcohol level (BAL) higher than .02. The level for drivers over 21 is .08. The effect is that a driver under 21 in Florida cannot have a single drink of alcohol and get into a vehicle.

With warnings of DUI road stops and increased police force during these weekends, and the risk of serious and fatal injury, drivers are encouraged to do all that is necessary to prevent from driving under the influence. The abundance of taxis in large South Florida cities such as Miami have given drivers a safe alternative. For others, choosing a designated driver or finding activities that don’t involve alcohol will ensure a safe ride home for ourselves and for others as we celebrate a great Labor Day weekend.

South Florida Boomers to Pay $2.3 Million to Accident Victim

On Monday, August 31, a jury awarded 48-year-old Michael Livington of Boston, MA, $2.3 million for injuries he suffered at the Boomers! in Boca Raton, Florida.

According to the Palm Beach Post, the accident occurred on May 15, 2005, in which Livington fell from a 25-foot rock climbing-wall, due to a hydraulic cable falling from the top of the wall. Livington suffered a broken ankle, which had to be fused.

Boomers is a family entertainment center, home to many games and attractions such as go-karts, laser tag, and bumper boats. Boomers, with two South Florida locations – Boca Raton and Ft. Lauderdale – is owned by Palace Entertainment, which owns many other popular parks such as Wild Waters and Silver Springs, both located in Ocala, Florida.

Amusement parks have been a staple in America for many years, from the large world-renowned parks of Walt Disney World “need to link to Disney article” to smaller establishments such as Boomers. In 2007, a survey by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions showed that 1,309 ride-related injuries occurred, with 35 considered “serious”.

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Red-light Cameras: a Violation of Florida Law?

Many cities in South Florida have followed a practice that the city of Pembroke Pines put in place last year: installing a red-light camera. However, since then, the question has been raised as to whether this practice conflicts with Florida state law. Several lawsuits have been filed in cities such as Aventura and Miami, with varied results.

The goal of the red-light camera is simple: to monitor the streets of our cities so as to prevent auto accidents and deter drivers from running red lights. The camera takes a photo of the vehicle before it reaches the intersection and after it passes. Another camera takes a 12-second video of the vehicle, which allows police to view the scene and assess whether the violation was necessary and determine whether or not to issue a ticket. Later, drivers can see the evidence online for themselves.

There is also a great financial incentive. Tthe Miami Herald reported that tickets in Pembroke Pines are $125, with American Traffic Solutions, the vendor, taking about $17.50 to $47.50, and the city keeping the rest. One camera in Pembroke Pines, Pines Blvd. and Southwest 129th Ave., has issued more than $100,000 since March. Aventura’s five cameras have brought in almost $1 million, and Fort Lauderdale’s proposed cameras hope to bring $1.8 million.

While proponents of the cameras stress the importance of safety for drivers, while making a few extra dollars amid harsh economic times, critics raise concerns about their due-process rights. In Florida, traffic laws must be uniform across the state. Having varied city camera laws would be a violation of state law. Furthermore, critics raise concerns as to an owner being cited for a violation, rather than the actual driver of the vehicle.

Legislation has been proposed for cameras in the past, but has not passed due to legal concerns. Last year, Legislation tried to legalize the cameras but failed. In 2005, then-Attorney General Charlie Christ noted that local governments had the right to set up cameras, but further added that state law would need to be changed for cities to issue tickets with red light cameras.
Read more “Red-light Cameras: a Violation of Florida Law?”

Fatal Injury at Florida’s Disney World

Last week, 30-year-old Anislav Varbanov, a stunt performer at Disney Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida, died when he broke his neck while rehearsing for a stunt show. The Orlando Sentinel story reports that the performer was practicing a tumble roll for the popular Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. The Orange-Osceola County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause of death due to a cervical spine fracture in Varbanov’s neck.

A spokeswoman for Disney, Zoraya Suarez , stated that the tumble roll was a common maneuver which had been performed many times in the show without injury. One employee said he was told that Varbanov landed awkwardly on his neck during the rehearsal.

This is the third incident in two months at the popular Florida amusement park. A week prior to this incident, Mark Priest, a 47-year-old actor at Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial in the Magic Kingdom, was injured after stumbling into a wall.

During the 4th of July weekend, 21-year-old monorail operator Austin Wuennenberg was killed in a monorail collision. The Sheriff’s Office is also investigating these other accidents. While the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigates each incident for patterns, Disney has said that each of these cases is unique and there is no link between them.

Since 2007, the OSHA has started 17 investigations, including the three mentioned this year, but only had three investigations in the previous five years. While no guests were injured in these three recent incidents, this wave of accidents in the past two months still presents a concern to the millions of guests and children who visit Disney’s theme parks in the summertime. Investigators must do their best to see that, whether these incidents were separate or related, the appropriate measures are taken so that both employees and guests are assured that Disney continues to operate its facilities with the utmost safety.

South Florida Hospital Sued for Malpractice for Brain Damage to Baby

St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida is being sued by a pregnant woman for injuries her baby suffered when the hospital mistakenly gave the woman a drug which speeds up labor. The Miami Herald reports that the woman, Tesome Sampson, gave birth two months early and her baby suffered brain damage as a result of the drug. She and baby’s father, Frank Guy, filed suit for negligence against the hospital, its owner Tenet Healthcare, and other hospital personnel, claiming $3.5 million in medical costs.

In the hospital’s statement, it apologized and acknowledged that Sampson was given the wrong medication, and that the mistake was “an unfortunate error”. The drug, Prostin E2, has been approved by the FDA , and is commonly used for the termination of pregnancies and expelling uterine contents, and can be used to induce labor.

Sampson was admitted to the hospital on August 25, 2008, 24 weeks pregnant. She was put on bed rest, but ten days later was given the wrong drug and suffered severe cramps. Sampson was given a portable toilet, where the baby was delivered.

Hospitals are not impervious to error. In 1999, an Institute of Medicine study found that about 98,000 people die every year from medical errors. These errors can be attributed to a number of factors such as miscommunication or failure of communication between hospital personnel and inefficient safety systems. Human error also plays a part, sometimes due to hospital staff work long hours.

However, the consequences of such mistakes can be life-altering, or even lead to death. Our firm has handled cases such as this where a careless error, one that could have been easily avoided, has taken the most precious of life away- a child. Furthermore, medical errors can attribute to millions of dollars spent on additional care needed to treat medical errors, rehabilitative treatment, increased medical malpractice insurance costs, and litigation expenses. Hospitals must do their part at all levels of administration to implement appropriate measures to ensure safety of their patients.

Broward County Auto Accident Puts Eight in Hospital

On Wednesday, August 20, the Sun Sentinel reported an auto accident that occurred in Hallandale Beach, where eight people, including two children ages 3 and 7, were sent to the hospital after a three –car collision on Pembroke Road, about 1 block east of I-95. The accident occurred at about 3:30 in the afternoon.

The driver, a man in his 70s, was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood in serious condition. The accident occurred when the driver, heading west on Pembroke Road, crossed into the eastbound lane, crashed into a Lexus, then crashed head-on into a pick-up truck. The cause of the accident is still unknown.

According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Traffic Crash Statistics Report 2008, the state of Florida had 243,342 traffic crashes last year, down about 5% from 2007. The report shows that Broward County had a total of 26,417 traffic accidents in 2008, with the greatest concentration of accidents on a weekday occurring after noon, between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Broward County was second only to Miami-Dade in total crashes last year. The risks associated with driving increase in larger metropolitan cities, such as Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Modern-day distractions (cell phones, mp3 players, etc.) and other factors, such as alcohol/drug abuse, poor vision, and aggressive driving all add to the danger. We have recently written about the issue of cell phone use and driving in a previous article “Does Cell Phone Use cause Florida Car Accidents?” It is clear that cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle can cause drivers to be distracted and distracted drivers can cause accidents.

We all need to make a conscious effort to be safer drivers. Our lives and the lives of our friends and families depend upon it. The Florida Safety Council is one of many great sources of information for tips on driver safety. By knowing the facts and being informed, drivers of all ages can get a better understanding and take more preventative measures to ensure the safety of themselves and others.

Mouthwashes with Alcohol Could Increase Risk of Cancer

A University of MelbourneStudy found that use of mouthwash containing alcohol could increase the risk of oral cancer. Professor Michael McCullough and co-author Dr. Camile Farah concluded that there is now sufficient evidence to prove that ethanol in mouthwash allows cancer-causing substances to permeate the lining of the mouth.

The Study involved 3,210 people, which found that daily mouthwash use was a significant risk factor for head and neck cancer-whether or not they used alcohol or tobacco. The effects of mouthwash were worst in smokers, who saw a 900% increased risk of oral cancer. Those who consumed alcohol saw a 500% increase.

On cue, a spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson Ltd. UK, the manufacturer of the popular “Listerine” brand stated: “There is no scientific evidence to support an association between the use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes, such as Listerine, and an increased risk of oral cancer.” As always, our position is to avoid panic, but err on the side of caution and seek out an alcohol free mouthwash at a health food store.

Although there is no way to definitively confirm the results of this new study, one thing is certain. Historically, the larger multi-national corporations that operate throughout the globe have a history of denial and cover-up when the safety of their products has been questioned. Their enormous wealth allows them to finance opposing scientific studies, some of which the corporations author themselves. They will then pay for the signature of a so-called expert, who decides to compromise their principles to chase the almighty dollar, or at least, the currency of their liking.

Erring on the side of caution can never be opposed, even by the most skeptical of critics.