The sudden trauma of a South Florida cruise ship sexual assault can leave survivors feeling stunned, shaken, and unsure of their next steps.Florida cruise ship sexual assault lawyer

As longtime Palm Beach sexual abuse assault attorneys, we are committed to helping survivors and their families pick up the pieces and pursue justice and accountability through civil litigation. This is separate from any criminal investigation or case that may be ongoing. The purpose of civil litigation in these cases is typically to hold accountable any parties who failed in their duty to protect the victim.

A number of recent high-profile cruise ship sexual assault cases have highlighted both the seriousness and unfortunate prevalence of these incidents.

Recently, a federal jury in South Florida awarded a sexual assault survivor more than $10 million after her rape by a Carnival Cruise Line crew member. Although the jury did not find the cruise line was negligent, maritime law allows defendant cruise lines in civil sexual assault cases involving employees to be held strictly liable. Strict liability does not require proof of negligence by a defendant. (This is different than state-level civil sexual assault cases, which typically require proof that the company/defendant failed in some duty of care owed to the plaintiff. This usually involves a failure to maintain a safe premises, negligent hiring/background checks, or inadequate supervision.)

The incident that recently led to the $10 million verdict occurred in 2018 and involved a crew member. He claimed the encounter was consensual, but was fired for violating the cruise line’s policy forbidding fraternization with patrons. The FBI did not pursue criminal charges against him, but the federal jury in the civil case found that he did sexually assault her.

Cruise Ship Sexual Assault Statistics

USA Today recently reported that, per U.S. Department of Transportation figures, more than 100 allegations of cruise ship sexual assaults involving ships embarking/disembarking in the U.S. were reported in 2019. The year before, there were 82. New figures haven’t been posted since pandemic-related shutdowns stymied the industry, which is just now starting to regain steam.

Rape crises experts say that factors impacting the high numbers of cruise ship sexual assaults include an abundance of alcohol, close quarters, and a lack of independent law enforcement. Of course, as our Palm Beach civil trial lawyers can explain, cruise ships do have security. However, these are not public law enforcement agencies. They’re private companies hired by the cruise ships.

Survivors of Florida Cruise Ship Sexual Assault Should Seek Immediate Legal Counsel

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A bipartisan-supported state bill that would have allowed non-economic damage claims in Florida medical malpractice wrongful death cases to be brought by the parents of unmarried, childless adult children over age 25 has failed in the Senate Rules Committee.Florida medical malpractice wrongful death

The outcome was disappointing, but predictable, given the strength of the health care and insurance lobbies here in the Sunshine State. In effect, there will continue to be cases of Florida medical malpractice wrongful deaths for which there is no legal remedy – simply because the decedent had no spouse or minor children under the age of 25.

Proponents of HB 6011 say it would have closed the “free kill” loophole of Florida medical malpractice law. Specifically, the way the law is currently written, it limits financial recovery in medical malpractice wrongful death cases so that the only people who can sue are the decedent’s surviving spouse and/or children under 25. Backers of HB 6011 have argued that this oversight effectively creates an incentive for physicians to allow some patients to die, rather than save them. Specifically, if an unmarried adult patient with no under-25 kids survives injury or illness resulting from medical malpractice, they can sue the doctor in their own right. But if that patient dies, there would be no survivors under Florida law who could bring that claim. This is what patient advocates have been referring to as a “free kill.”

It’s certainly in stark contrast to general negligence wrongful death claims, wherein there is a broader net cast for who has the right to sue.

When a person’s death is the result of a wrongful act, negligence, or breach of contract, Florida law allows family members or the estate to bring claims for lost wages, benefits, and other earnings. Family members may also sue for support and services the deceased can no longer provide, as well as for the loss of guidance and companionship. The law also allows compensation for mental and emotional suffering (non-economic damages). Those who can pursue such claims include:

  • A surviving spouse.
  • A child 25 years or younger.
  • A child 25 years or older, if there is no surviving spouse.
  • Parents of a deceased child over the age of 25 with no surviving spouse or children.

But Florida treats medical malpractice wrongful death claims differently. Continue reading

A survivor of a brutal rape and beating recently prevailed in her South Florida sexual assault lawsuit against the Miami hotel where the attack occurred and its security company, settling for $16 million for their failure to protect her.Florida hotel sexual assault lawyer

According to Local 10 News, 67-year-old woman, a tourist who was staying at the hotel with her husband last July, was beaten, strangled, choked, and forced to perform oral sex on her 22-year-old attacker in a vicious assault that took place in an open hallway and elevator. (The husband, also, was apparently beaten, pushed to the ground, and bitten by the man.) Despite her repeated screams and cries, none of the hotel staffers intervened. The man then reportedly tried to rape the woman, but was finally stopped when Miami-Dade police officers arrived on scene and arrested him. The attack left the victim with life-threatening injuries, including brain bleeding, collapsed lungs, broken ribs, and traumatic brain injury. After she was discovered, she was rushed to the hospital, where she underwent an 8-hour surgery to save her life.

The alleged attacker is still facing charges of sexual battery, felony battery, assault, and kidnapping.

As our South Florida sexual assault lawyers understand, the investigation into the liability of both the hotel and the security company revealed fairly damning evidence. The beating and sexual assault reportedly took place in the middle of an open hallway for 10 full minutes.

Although the hotel and security company deny any wrongdoing, the latter agreed to settle her claims for $5 million and the former for $11 million, respectively. In the aftermath of the incident, both the hotel and the security company have made improvements to security policy and procedure.

How Can a Hotel or Other Third Parties be Liable for Rape?

It’s not clear from news reports whether the attacker was a guest at the hotel, an employee, or a trespasser. There likely is no evidence that the third-party defendants (hotel and security company) had any prior knowledge of the defendant’s intent or intentionally helped him to carry out his alleged crimes. So how is that they can be held legally responsible? Continue reading

The parameters of qualified medical experts in Florida medical malpractice lawsuits will be weighed by the Florida Supreme Court. Justices recently allowed the Florida Medical Association, American Medical Association, and Hospital Medical Association to file briefs in the case supporting the hospital defendant. medical malpractice lawyer Palm Beach

As our Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers can explain, the court’s ruling on this issue could have far-reaching implications because it will determine the criteria for doctors who provide expert opinions, which are required at the very outset of every Florida medical malpractice lawsuit.

The case, University of Florida and Shands Hospital v. Carmondy, involves a plaintiff who filed a medical malpractice lawsuit due to an infection she suffered after undergoing cervical disc fusion surgery in 2016. Her negligence claims were against a neurosurgeon and an advanced registered nurse practitioner. Her petition included affidavits from a physician who practiced internal medicine and cardiology, and who previously had worked as a hospital specialist.

These cases cannot move past the initial phase unless the plaintiff submits affidavits from a doctor or doctors who are experts on par with the defendant who are of the opinion that the defendant breached the accepted standard of care for their profession. An accepted standard of care is not a simple question to answer. Much depends not only on the education, training, and specialty of that medical professional, but also what type of facility they practiced in and in what region. A highly specialized neurosurgeon working in a top hospital in an urban city with ample resources will be held to a different standard than someone of the same educational and training background, but with fewer resources. Continue reading

Electric scooters, or e-scooters, have become increasingly popular throughout South Florida, where they were legalized statewide by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019. They’re touted in college towns and cities as convenient, cost-effective, and clean. However, as the number of e-scooters has increased, so too have the number of crashes and accidents associated with them.e-scooter injury Florida personal injury lawyer

Data collected from U.S. emergency departments revealed there were nearly 40,000 people hurt nationally while riding e-scooters between 2014 and 2018. Those numbers have only grown along with the pervasiveness of e-scooters. The scooter injury rate in the U.S. rose from 6 per 100,000 to 19 per 100,000, with most injured being between the ages of 18 and 34. Stand up electric scooters have been associated with dozens of deaths over the last few years. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that emergency department visits from e-scooter injuries tripled between 2017 and 2020, the most common injury being to the upper and lower limbs, as well as the head and neck. In Los Angeles, the injury rate for e-scooters has surpassed that of motorcycles (though the injuries overall tend to be somewhat less severe).

Recently in Florida, a South Florida personal injury lawsuit against Bird Rides, an electric scooter rental company, was moved from the state circuit court in Broward County to the federal Florida Southern District Court, citing the foreign status of the company (headquartered in Delaware) and the amount of damages being sought (more than $75,000). Plaintiff in Bronson v. Bird Rides alleges he suffered severe injuries that are permanent or continuing in nature. We don’t know many further details about the alleged incident, other than that the injuries are alleged to have occurred when the plaintiff fell off the scooter he was riding in Palm Beach, and that he claims the injuries were caused by the scooter company’s negligence.

It may be some time before that case is either settled or goes to trial. In the meantime, numerous other e-scooter injury cases have garnered headlines. Among those: Continue reading

Although many Florida sex abuse lawsuits against churches involve molestation, assault, or abuse of minors, there may be a cause of action in the event of sexual misconduct involving clergy and an adult congregant as well.South Florida sex abuse lawyer

Such cases may be brought because the courts have held that the First Amendment (which protects freedom of religion) does not protect churches from liability for harm to a third party that arises from alleged sexual misconduct by clergy members. The state recognizes that religious institutions and clergy may owe a fiduciary duty to attendees. That includes a duty to adult parishioners as well as minors. A fiduciary duty can arise from personal, moral, or social relations, and liability is not solely dependent on an agreement or contractual relationship. For example, the Florida Supreme Court has held that churches that promote their clergy as qualified marriage counselors owe a fiduciary duty to “counselees” – even if most parishioners don’t actually receive direct counseling from the clergy.

Churches can be liable for sexual misconduct involving clergy and adult parishioners when this fiduciary duty is violated.

The Florida Supreme Court majority opinion wrote in the 2002 case of Malicki, et al v. Doe, “The First Amendment cannot be used at the initial pleading stage to shut the courthouse door to a plaintiff’s claims, which are founded on a religious institution’s alleged negligence arising from the institution’s failure to prevent harm resulting from one of its clergy who sexually assaults and batters a minor or adult parishioner.” A ruling to the contrary, the justices reasoned, would immunize church defendants in such a way that it would place religious institutions in a preferred position over secular institutions – something that would be “both foreign and hostile” to the 1st Amendment. Continue reading

If you’re thinking about filing a South Florida personal injury lawsuit, chances are you’re also still reeling from the incident. Our West Palm Beach injury lawyers recognize that litigation can seem like a daunting prospect. One of our goals is ensuring prospective clients understand the basics of the personal injury law in Florida, and how that might play out in their case.South Florida personal injury lawyer

Here, we outline five key facts Florida personal injury clients should know.

  1. You may not even have to file a lawsuit. A fair percentage of the time, your lawyer may be able to resolve the matter by filing a personal injury claim directly with the defendant/insurer and negotiating with them. Everyone knows the costs – and risks – associated with going to court. If it’s at all possible to settle the matter out-of-court, that’s usually in everyone’s best interests. A lawsuit really only needs to be filed when the other party is denying any wrongdoing or refuses to pay fair compensation for your losses. Even if you file a lawsuit, cases rarely make it all the way to trial. They’re either dismissed or settled before it gets to that point. (Most cases settle because, as injury lawyers, we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we aren’t paid unless you win. That gives your lawyer strong incentive to shoot straight about your odds at the outset.) Often, when a case does make it to trial, it’s only one or two issues of contention. Of course, those issues may be substantial and still require significant research, expert analysis, and time, but it’s better where possible to narrow down issues of contention to as few points as possible.

Liability for Florida amputation injuries may be imputed to negligent doctor/hospital (medical malpractice), property owner who failed to correct an unsafe condition (premises liability), careless motor vehicle driver (auto accident claim), or product manufacturer/distributor who designed/manufactured/sold a defective product (product liability). There could be other liable parties too, depending on the facts of the case. Given the severity of amputation injuries and the extent to which one can impact the rest of your life, it’s imperative to discuss your legal options with an experienced Palm Beach injury lawyer to determine whether you may have grounds for a South Florida injury lawsuit.Florida amputation injury lawyer

Recently, a doctor and urgent care center were ordered to pay $7.6 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit for Florida amputation injuries suffered by a patient whose bacterial infection was initially misdiagnosed as an ankle sprain. According to the Pensacola News Journal, the case involved a retired firefighter, whose right leg had to be amputated after a medical mistake. Specifically, the patient’s leg became infected after he was exposed to contaminated water in the Pensacola Bay. The leg began to ache and turned blue. When the pain worsened, he went to the urgent care center. Blisters began to develop as he waited in the lobby. Despite these symptoms, he was diagnosed with a sprained ankle, given crutches, and instructed to ice and elevate the leg. The following day, the man saw a podiatrist, who immediately recognized what was happening, and correctly diagnosed the patient as battling an aggressive bacterial infection. He was rushed to the hospital and treated with powerful antibiotics. However, by then it was too late, and the leg had to be amputated to save the patient’s life. The urgent care facility and employee doctor denied liability. However, following an eight-day civil trial, jurors awarded plaintiff $6.8 million and his wife $787,000.

Florida Amputation Injury Cases are High Stakes

Amputation is when any piece of limb of the body is severed. They can be part of planned surgeries, but they may also be the result of an accident or medical mistake.

Losing fingers or toes, while seemingly minor, can be traumatic, resulting in unique challenges for the tasks of everyday life. When someone suffers the partial or total loss of a limb, the consequences can be profound. Continue reading

A fatal Florida parasailing accident involving a vacationer in the Florida Keys has raised questions about the enforceability of liability waivers. Florida parasailing injury lawyer

Liability waivers are standard operating procedure for companies that offer inherently risky excursions and activities, including those that rent out/offer charter boats, parasailing, wakeboarding/tubing, jet skis, scuba diving, sky diving, etc.

But as our Palm Beach injury lawyers can explain, although Florida courts have upheld the viability of these waivers, they aren’t necessarily a catch-all for every scenario. There are situations where a liability waiver can be successfully challenged. This is particularly true when gross negligence is at issue. Gross negligence is a lack of care that is so egregious, it demonstrates reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others. It amounts to a conscious violation of other people’s right to safety.

In the most recent case, a 33-year-old Illinois woman died Memorial Day weekend while parasailing with her two kids. Police reported the boat’s captain cut the cable that tethered the woman and her kids to the boat. They plunged into the water, and then were dragged along the surface until they slammed into a bridge. The mother died and her two kids were injured.

For legal experts specializing in catastrophic injury cases, there is a strong argument to be made that people who do not know how parasails are operated shouldn’t be compelled to sign waivers of liability allowing parasailing companies to profit handsomely from these ventures while evading responsibility for skirting basic safety measures. In terms of legal enforceability, much of it is going to come down to the exact language in the waiver and the details of what happened. There’s also still an open question about whether a parent can waive a child’s rights in a liability waiver.

Are There Florida Parasailing Safety Laws?

There are safety laws in Florida that pertain specifically to parasailing – and they came about after several previous tragedies.

The White-Miskell Act, named after two tourists who died in Florida parasailing accidents, requires: Continue reading

A bombshell 300-page report detailing two decades of sex abuse and systematic cover-ups within Southern Baptist churches across the country has rocked the faith community. Revelations are that church leadership not only mishandled and suppressed abuse claims, but that they belittled victims and their families and resisted reforms at every turn. Palm Beach sex abuse lawyer

Southern Baptists are the largest national denomination of Protestants in the U.S. The third-party investigation was commissioned by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at the insistence of church members, was made public in late May. (The SBC is not its own church, but rather a network of churches.)

As our Palm Beach sex abuse lawyers can explain, this is far from the first inkling the public has had that such problems were legion. Three years ago, reporters from two Texas newspapers collaborated on an investigation into church sex abuse of children and other vulnerable parishioners. Their report, Abuse of Faith, revealed that some 400 Southern Baptist leaders – top ministers, youth pastors, etc. – had been convicted or pleaded guilty to sex crimes against more than 700 victims over the last 20 years. Top leadership commented at the time that it was “an apocalypse,” far worse and systemic than they imagined it could be.

Immediate response to the latest report from ultraconservative branches of the denomination were relatively quiet. A few regional leaders released brief statements indicating they were “grieving,” but also that they disagreed with certain aspects of the findings. A few individual pastors offered public comment condemning both the abuse and the church’s inaction, calling it all “heartbreaking” and “horrifying.” The current SBC president issued a statement saying there were not adequate words to express his sorrow at the things the report revealed, and vowed there would be changes.

Cases of Sex Abuse Brought to Light

Among the cases of “credible” reports of sexual abuse brought to light: Continue reading

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