Charges Filed in 2009 Fort Lauderdale Hyperbaric Chamber Fire Deaths

62740_industrial_extension_cord%20sxchu.jpgAccording to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, a head safety technician and a physician were recently charged in connection with the 2009 hyperbaric chamber deaths of a woman and her grandson. 62-year-old Vicenza Pesce and 4-year-old Francesco Martinisi died after a spark ignited in a hyperbaric chamber at the Ocean Hyperbaric Neurologic Center in Fort Lauderdale. The two Italian citizens were in the pressurized oxygen chamber for about 20 minutes before it ignited and went up in flames. After the fire began, both Pesce and Martinisi were reportedly trapped in the chamber for about five minutes. According to law enforcement, the grandmother and grandson each suffered burns on approximately 90 percent of their bodies.

Although both deaths were ruled accidental, 51-year-old Lance Bark was recently arrested by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office on manslaughter charges. Aggravated manslaughter charges are now pending against 81-year-old George Daviglus, the doctor who runs the facility. The company has since been renamed and both the doctor and the chief safety technician continue to work at the Fort Lauderdale facility.

The fire was purportedly caused by static electricity and exacerbated by poor grounding of the chamber. According to law enforcement officials, several procedural and equipment failures existed at the facility when the accident occurred. An investigation revealed that a number of the facility’s hyperbaric chambers had exposed or burnt wires, broken indicator lights, and taped extension cords placed near oxygen lines. The chamber in which the fire started was also purportedly rewired for 220 volts of electricity in violation of design specifications. Additionally, six of the 12 chambers located at the facility are more than 40 years old. Despite such issues, investigators reportedly found no maintenance or inspection logs at the facility.

In an 11-page arrest report, Daviglus and Bark are accused of failing to require the grandmother and her grandson to wear grounding bracelets designed to prevent static electric shock. The victims were also not dressed in appropriate non-flammable clothing and investigators found flammable items such as baby wipes inside of the chamber. In addition, there was allegedly no operator monitoring the chamber when the fire broke out and the intercom system was not functioning. As a result, Pesce reportedly had difficulty notifying anyone of the flames. The facility is also accused of failing to follow emergency procedures and prolonging the victims’ exposure to the fire.

Detective Edwin Tapanes of the Florida Fire Marshal’s Office stated the fire resulted from gross negligence. An independent investigation by forensic engineers retained by the Broward County State Attorney’s Office agreed. The investigation also found that Daviglus and Bark failed to follow regulations promulgated by the National Fire Protection Association
Although investigators stated this case was caused by gross negligence on the part of the hyperbaric chamber facility, the manufacturer of a dangerous or defective product may also be held strictly liable in the State of Florida. If the product was defective, failed to function as intended, or did not function according to recognized safety standards, the manufacturer may be held liable regardless of whether any negligence occurred. If you were injured as a result of a defective or poorly designed product, contact an experienced Florida products liability attorney.
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Bond Lowered for Coral Gables Man Accused of DUI Manslaughter

1337577_wine_swirl%20sxchu%20website.jpgThe bond for a Coral Gables man charged with DUI manslaughter in connection with the April 13th death of a teenager was recently lowered to $205,000. 38-year-old Sandor Guillen is accused of driving his girlfriend’s Land Rover at a speed of more than 100 miles per hour into a minivan carrying three people. The minivan was reportedly torn in two by the impact and 13-year-old Kaely Camacho died as a result of the injuries she sustained in the accident. Her father and 16-year-old sister were taken to Baptist Hospital and later released. Guillen allegedly attempted to flee the scene of the accident on foot before he was apprehended a few blocks away.

According to reports, Guillen smelled of alcohol and admitted to drinking liquor prior to the collision. A Miami-Dade judge initially set bond for Guillen at $1 million despite that the average bond for individuals accused of DUI manslaughter in Florida is about $45,000. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Leon Firtel reduced the bond before a packed courtroom after stating it was his duty to uphold the law. Onlookers expressed concern that Guillen would flee the country if he were released. Both Guillen, a United States citizen, and his parents, Nicaraguan nationals, surrendered their passports to the Miami-Dade court. If Guillen posts the bond, he will be placed under house arrest and required to wear a GPS tracking device.

Guillen was also charged with driving without a license, motor vehicular homicide, and leaving the scene of an accident. The case has attracted widespread attention in South Florida due to the efforts of one of Kaely’s five siblings. Bree Ann Camacho used social media to encourage supporters of the higher bond amount to attend Tuesday’s bond hearing. She also started an online petition in support of maintaining the higher bond for Guillen.

Alcohol can have a significant effect on a driver’s judgment, perception, and reaction time. Individuals who choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol are a danger to everyone on the roadway. Tragically, drunk driving is one of the leading causes of fatal traffic accidents in Florida. If you were hurt or lost a loved one in a drunken driving crash, it is a good idea to contact a capable Florida car accident lawyer to discuss your case.
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Road Construction Worker Killed by Dump Truck near Fort Lauderdale

1000242_toy_truck%20sxchu%20website.jpgRecently, a 53-year-old road construction worker from Hialeah died after a dump truck backed into him on Hillsboro Boulevard in Deerfield Beach. Witnesses stated Ricardo Corrales walked behind a truck driven by 43-year-old Emis Mauricio Martin-Rojas as the vehicle backed up during a road resurfacing project. At the time of the accident, Martin-Rojas was reportedly following the signals of a flag operator who was running alongside the vehicle on the ground. The driver of the dump truck apparently stopped after he realized he hit something and found Corrales lying on the roadway in critical condition.

Although Corrales was immediately taken to the North Broward Medical Center by emergency crews, he soon died as a result of his injuries. East Hillsboro Boulevard was closed for approximately two hours following the incident. The accident is currently under investigation by the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Construction sites of any kind can be hazardous for workers. Each year, thousands of construction employees are hurt or killed on the job in Florida. Due to the dangerous nature of the work, construction accidents are usually quite serious and a worker may become permanently disabled as a result of his or her injuries. Common construction worker injuries include falls, burns, electrical accidents, internal injuries, and other harms that can result from the use of defective machinery or tools. Workers may also suffer broken bones, back injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and, as was unfortunately the case in this instance, wrongful death.

In Florida, workers’ compensation laws generally provide the only avenue of recovery for employees who are hurt on the job regardless of who was responsible for the injury. Still, an employer’s insurance company will often refuse to provide an injured worker with the maximum compensation he or she is entitled to. Some important exceptions to the exclusive remedy law do exist. In some instances, an injured construction worker may have a claim against a third party such as an equipment manufacturer, contractor, or property owner. If you were injured while working at a construction site, it is a good idea to consult with a skilled Florida construction accident attorney as soon as you are able.
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Miami-Dade Widow Claims Husband Died Because Hospital Released Him Too Quickly

823923_its_been_a_long_road%20sxchu.jpgIn early April, a South Florida man died less than 36 hours after he was released from Kendall Regional Medical Center following a hit and run bicycling accident. 51-year-old Miguel Rocafort was allegedly severely injured by an unidentified driver while riding his bicycle. Although several other hospitals were closer, emergency responders from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue reportedly elected to take Rocafort to the Kendall Regional Medical Center due to the hospital’s class II trauma center. According to his widow, Flor Graham, the hospital released Rocafort too early which contributed to her husband’s death.

Rocafort fractured a vertebra in his neck, sustained a serious head injury, suffered from fluid on the brain, and broke a leg in the crash. Still, his wife claims the hospital tried to discharge Rocafort two days after the accident due to concerns over how much of his treatment costs would be covered by his health insurance. His wife, who is a medical assistant at another area hospital, convinced the hospital to let Rocafort stay for an additional day. In the end, he was released from Kendall Regional Medical Center three days after breaking his neck in the hit and run crash. Rocafort died about one day after he was released.

According to Rocafort’s friends and family, the man was severely injured and still in a great deal of pain when discharged from the hospital. Soon after returning home, Rocafort began having difficulty breathing and became unconscious. Although his wife administered CPR until rescue personnel arrived, they could not revive him. Rocafort was pronounced dead at the Baptist Medical Center in Homestead.

Kendall Regional Medical Center reportedly refused to address Graham’s claims that the hospital was more focused on insurance coverage than her husband’s health. Instead, the hospital issued a statement that said Rocafort was treated and appropriately discharged.

Following Rocafort’s death, the hit and run accident case was transferred to investigators from Miami-Dade traffic homicide. Police are still looking for the vehicle that struck Rocafort. In addition to facing possible criminal charges for the accident, the driver who hit Rocafort may also be subject to a Florida wrongful death lawsuit.

Because medical caregivers in Florida must provide their patients with a reasonable level of care, Rocafort’s widow may have a medical malpractice claim against the hospital. While medical malpractice victims and their families have up to two years to file an injury claim in Florida, insurance companies also have two years to evaluate a malpractice claim before a lawsuit may be filed. If you believe you or a family member was the victim of medical malpractice in Florida, it is a good idea to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you are able.
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Florida Nursing Home Caregivers Charged With Abuse

1160103_prescription_drugs_2%20sxchu.jpgIn January, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) was arrested in Tampa after she allegedly slapped a 91-year-old dementia patient at the Lake Villas Health Care Center. 27-year-old Vanessa Lashawn Robinson was charged with felony abuse of the elderly for allegedly slapping a patient over and over with her open hand. According to law enforcement, police were called after a witness saw the 91-year-old attempting to protect herself from being struck by Robinson. The CNA was later released after she posted a $2,000 bond.

The following month, a New Smyrna Beach nurse was charged with abuse, neglect, and fraud for reportedly administering an incorrect drug to a patient at a Daytona Beach nursing home. 55-year-old Kathleen Pimental is accused of withholding a disabled patient’s painkiller, oxycodone, and instead administering the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal. The Florida Attorney General’s Medicare Control Fraud Unit conducted an investigation after a patient complained of severe stomach pain and blisters associated with medication administered by nurse Pimental.

Pimental is accused of obtaining a controlled substance through misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, or subterfuge. She is also accused of abusing and neglecting a disabled adult. Following her arrest, the Manor on the Green nursing home employee was later released from the Volusia County Branch Jail.

These two cases are unfortunate and poignant examples of nursing home abuse. In the State of Florida, a nursing home facility is required to provide a certain level of care to every patient. When a nursing home or its employees fail to provide proper care, the facility may be in violation of the patient’s bill of rights. If a nursing home resident is hurt or dies as a result of the facility’s negligence or abuse, family members of a patient may file a nursing home liability lawsuit. Although most nursing home abuse cases result from negligence, they may arise from an employee’s failure to administer the correct medications, failure to provide adequate medical care, emotional distress, failure to provide adequate food, and even physical or sexual abuse.

Residents who are incapacitated or who are otherwise unable to report mistreatment are especially at risk for abuse in Florida nursing homes. Unfortunately, the signs of nursing home abuse can be difficult to detect. If your friend or family member is a resident in a Florida nursing home, it is important to maintain regular contact with both your loved one and the nursing home employees who are tasked with your loved one’s care. If you believe a nursing home resident has been a victim of abuse or neglect, it is vital for you to report your concerns. A skilled Florida nursing home abuse attorney can help you protect your friend or loved one’s rights.
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Six Abandon Ship Due to Fire in Intracoastal Waterway Near Fort Lauderdale

347284_burning_boat%20sxchu.jpgRecently, a 30-foot boat caught fire and overturned in the Intracoastal Waterway near Fort Lauderdale. All six passengers, including three adults and three children aged 10, 12, and 14, abandoned ship as a result of the flames. A spokesperson for Fort Lauderdale Fire and Rescue, Matt Little, stated all of the passengers were able to swim to shore where they were pulled from the water by onlookers and emergency crews. Little also said no one was injured in the incident.

According to witness Linda Nair, smoke from the fire rose about 100 feet into the air and could be seen for miles. She said she was impressed by how quickly area firefighters extinguished the flames. It took firefighters approximately 15 minutes to put the blaze out. The cause of the flames is currently under investigation. The owner of the boat was not onboard at the time of the incident.

Luckily, no one was severely injured or killed in this particular accident. Still, a great many Florida deaths are the result of tragic and avoidable boating accidents. With so many great boating spots in South Florida, boaters often spend a great deal of time on the water. Because boating is such a popular form of recreation, it is vital for boaters of all ages to follow safety guidelines and rules. Boat operators have a responsibility to protect not only themselves and their vessel, but also their passengers. Losing someone you love in an unexpected watercraft accident can be devastating. It is often made even worse when your loss was preventable.

If you have lost a family member in a Florida boating accident, you have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party at fault. Generally, you may sue for wrongful death following a deadly accident that resulted from someone else’s act of negligence, recklessness, or carelessness. In the State of Florida, relatives have up to two years to file a wrongful death claim unless your claim is against a Cruise Ship in which case you may be limited to filing a lawsuit within one year based on the passenger ticket. If you have lost a family member due to another person’s negligence, you should contact a capable South Florida personal injury lawyer to discuss your case.
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Florida Supreme Court Considering State’s Medical Malpractice Damages Cap

875413_balance%20sxchu%20website.jpgThe future of Florida’s medical malpractice damages cap law enacted in 2003 is now being considered by the State’s Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Florida recently heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the law in Michelle Evette McCall v. United States of America. The law limits non-economic damages to $500,000, unless death or a catastrophic injury results. In such cases, the cap is instead $1 million. It also limits recovery for emergency services to $150,000, and $300,000. Additionally, where someone who is not a licensed health care provider committed the negligence that caused a patient’s injury, the cap is $750,000 and $1.5 million no matter where medical services were provided.

In the McCall case, a woman died from blood loss shortly after giving birth at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center in 2006. After her family sued for medical malpractice, a jury awarded McCall’s estate $2 million for pain and suffering. The judge in the case, however, lowered the award to $1 million in accordance with the 2003 Florida law. McCall’s estate appealed the reduction in damages on the grounds that her constitutional rights were violated because the reduction effectively limited McCall’s access to the courts.

An attorney for the State of Florida, Daniel Lenerz, said McCall’s access to the courts was not limited by the Florida damages cap. He stated lawmakers have created other damage limits on numerous occasions that have survived judicial scrutiny. According to Justice Barbra Pariente, a court will regularly defer to lawmakers with regard to caps on legal cases. She said the real question is how long such limits are defensible.

Florida lawmakers reportedly passed the malpractice damages cap law in response to a tightening insurance market. At the time, many physicians claimed increasing premiums could put them out of business. Insurance companies were also allegedly writing policies with lower maximum damages coverage. When the medical malpractice law was enacted, Florida lawmakers required insurers to reduce medical malpractice rates by 7.8 percent. It also required 18 new insurers to enter the market.

According to a lawyer for McCall’s estate, Robert Peck, 95 percent of all Florida medical malpractice cases are settled outside of a courtroom. He also stated the average settlement is $213,000. Peck does not believe cases such as McCall’s were the impetus for the medical malpractice damages cap law. Now, the issue is up to the Florida Supreme Court. The Court has an unlimited amount of time to examine the constitutionality of the law and render an opinion.

In Florida, the victim of medical malpractice has two years to file a claim. Insurers also have up to two years to evaluate a patient’s claim before a lawsuit may be filed. Because of this, it is vital for you to discuss your Miami-Dade medical malpractice case with a capable lawyer as soon as possible after your injury.
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Authorities Say Deadly Fort Pierce School Bus Accident Caused by Inattentive Bus Driver

1012894_cn_tower___%20sxchu.jpgLast month, a nine-year-old boy was killed and more than one dozen other children were injured when a school bus collided with a semi-trailer truck carrying landscaping sod near Fort Pierce. Many students, including the child killed, were wearing lap belts as required by Florida law. Still, several were ejected from the bus and lying on the ground when emergency crews arrived. The bus driver, Albert Hazen of Port St. Lucie, reportedly led the injured children off of the bus and directed them to rescue crews before collapsing and being taken to a local hospital.

According to a seven-page crash report released by the Florida Highway Patrol, the Frances K. Sweet Magnet School bus accident was caused by an inattentive bus driver. The report states the bus driver caused the accident when he turned left into the path of the oncoming tractor trailer. Despite that the 24-year-old semi-truck driver, Charles Cooper, attempted to avoid the accident, his vehicle struck the right side of the school bus and sent it spinning. Cooper was also taken to the hospital over injuries he sustained in the collision.

On the day of the accident, the sky was reportedly clear and the roadway was dry. Although toxicology results are currently pending, the driver is not suspected of using alcohol or other drugs prior to the crash. Still, the Florida Highway Patrol has stated charges related to the deadly accident are currently pending.

Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of personal injury and wrongful death claims filed in the State of Florida. Commuters, students, tourists, and others risk being injured in an auto accident every day. Some of the most common causes of Florida car accidents include drunk or impaired driving, driver inattention, and speeding. Many car crashes are also caused by drivers who are distracted by other vehicle occupants, cell phones, email, or text messaging.

Although car accidents may be minor, they can also be fatal. The medical costs related to recovering from an unexpected injury can be enormous. According to Florida law, those hurt in a collision are protected by mandatory Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. Unfortunately, the costs of recovery are often not completely covered by PIP. An experienced Florida personal injury lawyer can explain your rights and your options for recovery following a car crash.
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