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HLF Letter

Haggard Law Firm > HLF Letter (Page 19)

Trampling at Movie Theater Leads to $1.7 Million Verdict for Haggard Law Client

Jury agrees that Regal Cinemas could have prevented incident during screening of Dark Knight movie

Miami Beach, FL –  A Miami-Dade County jury has awarded 34 year old Maria Navas $1.7 million for the permanent injury she suffered when she was trampled by theater goers frantically trying to escape an altercation in a Miami Beach theater only days after a mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado.

blog4On July 31st ,  2012 Navas was on a first date in the Regal Cinemas Theaters at 1120 Lincoln Road. Navas and her date were watching the Dark Knight Rises movie when two men began arguing. One of them, David Escamillo, walked out of the theater for a short time and returned wearing black gloves. As he pursued the man he was previously arguing with, witnesses report he paced up and down the steps of the theater mumbling and grunting for 10 minutes before he yelled “this is it”. Chaos ensued as patrons began running out of the theater. Navas was trampled by the frantic crowd. She suffered a significant fracture of her right foot that required two surgeries to place 18 pieces of hardware (plates & screws) in her foot. The once active woman is now limited in what she can do.

Jason Brenner and Douglas McCarron of the Haggard Law Firm (www.haggardlawfirm.com), who represented Navas in this case, argued that the trampling incident was preventable, especially in light of the sensitivity every American had to movie theater violence at that time. Only 11 days before the incident in Miami Beach, a gunman walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a screening of the same movie, Dark Knight Rises, and began shooting patrons. 12 people were killed and more than 70 others were injured.

The attorneys said theater staff in Miami Beach did nothing to diffuse the initial argument between Escamillo and the movie patron. The staff also did not prevent Escamillo from returning when he initially left the theater which eventually lead to the mass exodus that caused Navas’ injuries.  Considering what had recently occurred in Colorado, the theater should have taken heightened security measures.

Navas hopes this verdict will make movie theaters take note of their responsibility to protect patrons by taking actionable steps to ensure safety of every patron

blog5The Haggard Law Firm, P.A. represents the rights of people seriously injured through the fault of others. We are passionately committed to our clients and stress the highest level of personal service, professionalism and case preparation. It is our top priority to develop and maintain a sound attorney/client relationship founded on mutual honesty, trust and teamwork providing the best results for our clients.

CASE RESULT: $3.1 million settlement delivered for family of murder victim in negligent security case

CASE RESULT: Continental Real Estate Companies among defendants in $3.1 million settlement  in negligent security case

 1

21 year old shot and killed while his first child is born.

Miami, Florida – Bad lighting, broken cameras, and other insufficient security measures have lead a Miami nightclub, Continent Real Estate Companies, and others to settle with the family of a murder victim for $3.1 million in a civil case.

On November 28th, 2011 Charles Lucas, Jr. was trying to diffuse an argument between his friends and several patrons of the Kaffe Krystal Night Club in Miami (2550 NW 72nd Avenue #305, Miami, FL 33122) following a car crash in the Club’s parking lot. Lucas was shot during that argument and later died at Baptist Hospital.

While the 21-year-old was fighting for his life, his first born child was born at a separate hospital. He was trying to leave the club/strip mall after receiving a text message that his girlfriend was going into labor.

Todd Michaels of The Haggard Law Firm and Alan Goldfarb of Alan Goldfarb, P.A. argued that the club, strip mall owners, management company and security company hired to police the property did not take the necessary security steps needed to prevent the shooting despite its location in a well-known high crime area.

$55 Million Verdict in Andrews Civil Case Justified, Highlights ‘Modern Day’ Negligent Security Issue

$55 Million Verdict in Andrews Civil Case Justified, Highlights ‘Modern Day’ Negligent Security Issue

A jury awarded sports reporter Erin Andrews $55 million on Monday in her lawsuit against a stalker who bought a hotel room next to her and secretly recorded a nude video, finding that the hotel companies and the stalker shared in the blame.

After a full day of deliberations, the panel said the stalker was responsible for 51 percent of the blame and the two hotel companies would share the rest, which comes out to nearly $27 million.

Michael Haggard, Managing Partner of The Haggard Law Firm says “the Erin Andrews case is really a modern day Negligent Security case that highlights the simple security measures that hotels have to strive to uphold. “ Since 2007 Haggard’s Firm has handled over 150 negligent security cases and delivered $338,035,586 in verdicts and settlements to its clients.

Picture of Michael Haggard

Jurors in the Andrews case heard directly from the Fox Sports reporter and Dancing with the Starsco-host, who testified that she was humiliated, shamed and suffers from depression as a result of the video, which has been viewed by millions of people online.

Andrews has maintained that someone at the hotel gave out her room number to Michael David Barrett and honored his request to be placed near her. She said no one ever told her that he asked to be in an adjoining or connecting room. Had she known that, she said she would’ve called police.

“To allow a stalker to request a room next to a celebrity or for that matter specifically request a room next to anyone without their consent is outrageous.  A simple “heads up” to Ms. Andrews would have prevented this tragedy” says Haggard.

Haggard adds the situation could have been much worse. The stalker could have been violent, which is what the Coral Gables Florida-based attorney often sees in the negligent security cases his firm has handled. “Thank goodness this event did not turn into something violent.  Imagine if the stalker involved in the stabbing of Monica Seles decided to confront her in a hotel room rather than at a tennis match.” During the French Open tennis tournament in 1993 Seles was stabbed during a break in her match by a fan obsessed with one of her chief rivals.

Attorneys for the companies that owned the hotel argued that while what happened to Andrews was terrible, the convicted stalker should be solely to blame because he was a determined criminal. The attorneys also suggested that Andrews’ rise in her career shows she did not suffer severe and permanent distress.

Haggard adds, “For the defense to say that Ms. Andrews career has been enhanced is disgusting and totally misses the point of this invasion of privacy that will affect her for the rest of her life.”
* facts of the story were sourced from the following NBC News articlehttp://www.necn.com/news/national-international/Jury-Finds-Hotel-at-Fault-in-Erin-Andrews-Nude-Video-Lawsuit-371321611.html#ixzz42JrlkL1X

Universal Truths Vs. Stereotypes-Dealing with Ours and Their at Trial

Universal Truths Vs. Stereotypes: Dealing with Ours and Their at Trial

(Originally published for the Southern Trial Lawyers Association Newsletter)

By Christopher Marlowe, The Haggard Law Firm

We are all prejudiced, shaped by our interactions with others from birth.  Some experiences are positive, others insulting.  Each, to varying degrees, necessarily changes our perception of others.  This writing is premised on the understanding that we are all susceptible to feelings and beliefs that are not always fair or rational.  It is the recognition of this narrow aspect of the human condition that cautions the trial attorney to acknowledge Universal Truths where they exist, and the Stereotypes that often accompany them.

Having chosen a profession that revolves largely upon judging the behavior and motivations of others, identifying and appreciating our prejudice is a critical component of successfully working within the legal system.  For trial lawyers, the process of moving from an abstract grievance to a concrete solution for our clients begins in earnest with jury selection.

A jury of our peers seems like a simple enough concept.  However, in every jurisdiction with which I am familiar, the peer group is defined only by one commonality: an arbitrarily drawn geographic boundary. The remainder of that which defines your prospective panel is a mystery.  Race, religion, gender, sexual identity and political beliefs all thrive independently behind each of the twenty or thirty faces staring back at you as you begin the process of selecting who, exactly, will stand in judgment of the situation that forced this community of peers to miss work and doctor appointments to perform their civic duty.

Family Advocates to Prevent Drownings

Family Advocates to Prevent Drownings

By Christopher L. Marlowe, The Haggard Law Firm

It was the day after Thanksgiving.  Two year old Soleila Estien was taking a nap with her father in the family’s apartment in Hollywood, Florida.  Her mother Vahnessa was at work, and Grandma had just dozed off with a book.  Everything about this beautiful Friday afternoon was warm and pleasant.

Dad was startled awake not long after he and Soleila lay down on the couch together.  She was gone. As parents usually do when searching for their toddler, dad looked behind couches, in closets, and other such places where little ones amuse themselves with hide and seek.  Not having found Soleila after a diligent search while calling her name, dad woke grandmom and the two began looking with greater urgency and rising concern.

They searched in the parking lot, around trees, under cars, throughout the complex and around the apartment complex pool, and their calls turned to cries and desperate screams for Soleila.  Then they saw.  On the edge of the pool there sat Soleila’s little flip flops.  The outline of her little body was now apparent on the bottom of the pool..

The apartment complex where young Soleila died was an aquatic safety disgrace.  The gates to the pool were neither self-closing nor self-latching.  The laundry facilities were located within the pool deck area, prompting residents to leave the gate open so they could carry clothes baskets back and forth without bothering with the lock.  When Grabiel pulled his unconscious little girl from the water, there was no telephone on the deck to dial 911. Against time and fate he tried CPR while carrying her back to the apartment, but she was dead.

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children one to four years of age.  In Florida, drowning is the leading cause of all deaths for this age category, and Florida has the highest drowning death rate for children under the age of five. For obvious good reason, federal, state and local laws have addressed these preventable accidents by attempting to regulate the safe operation of residential pool facilities.

In Soleila’s case, for example, The City of Hollywood Code of Ordinances, § 158.04 reads, in pertinent part:

“Every outdoor private swimming pool shall be completely surrounded by a fence, wall, or enclosure in accordance with the 2007 Florida Building Code, and 2009 Supplement.  Such fence, wall, or enclosure shall remain in place at all times and shall not be readily removable….All gates or doors opening through such enclosure shall be equipped with a self-closing and self-

latching device for keeping the gate or door securely closed at all times when not in actual use.”

The Florida Department of Health regulation 64E-9.006(2)(h) requires that:

“All public pools shall be surrounded by a minimum 48 inch high fence or other substantial barrier approved by the department. The fence shall be continuous around the perimeter of the pool area that is not otherwise blocked or obstructed by adjacent buildings or structures and shall adjoin with itself or abut to the adjacent members. Access through the barrier or fence from dwelling units such as homes, apartments, motel rooms, and hotel rooms, shall be through self-closing self-latching lockable gates of 48 inch minimal height from the floor or ground with the latch located a minimum of 54 inches from the bottom of the gate or at least 3 inches below the top of the gate on the pool side.”

Florida Statute 515.27 and 515.29 read in pertinent part, respectively:

“All doors providing direct access from the home to the pool must be equipped with a self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54 inches above the floor.”

“Gates that provide access to swimming pools must open outward away from the pool and be self-closing and equipped with a self-latching locking device, the release mechanism of which must be located on the pool side of the gate and so placed that it cannot be reached by a young child over the top or through any opening or gap.”

While these laws were written with the deaths of so many innocent children in mind, too many communities either ignore them or are unaware of their existence.  Acutely aware of this reality, Vahnessa and Grabiel Estien have shaped their personal tragedy into a motivating force for change and education. Since that most awful day, they have managed the toughest feat that parents often have after losing a child – staying together.  And together, they have put one foot in front of the other, as one, and their newly inspired lives are making swimming pools everywhere safer as a result.

Fast forward six years from the death of their beloved daughter, and the Estien family has been blessed with the births of two sons.  Teaching them to swim and enjoy the water was a sacred priority for both Vahnessa and Grabiel.  They did not want their boys to fear the water.  But they were determined to ensure that their children respected it and that the adults responsible for aquatic facilities did their part to responsibly operate their pools.

After the civil matter relating directly to Soleila was resolved, the family started the Soleila G. Estien Memorial Swim Strong Scholarship.   The family persuaded local businesses to fund donations for families who could not independently afford swimming lessons for their children.  One of the most effective awareness tools for these businesses was the book Vahnessa Estien wrote in honor of her daughter, entitled “The Boy Who Could Swim.”  It is a children’s book, written with as much heart, positive messaging and hope as any story borne of tragedy possibly could be.  Parents can enjoy reading to their children a positive and enjoyable story of hope, courage and safety thanks to the courage Vahnessa had to write this book.

Vahnessa and Grabiel searched their souls after their daughter’s death. Somehow they managed, for the sake of their marriage and their sons, to find the will and power to harness their grief toward a positive goal.  I am certainly proud of the work we did for the family and the outcome that was achieved. However, I am mostly thankful to the Estiens who, through their own grief process, are a constant reminder to me that what we do as advocates has the ability to contribute, even a little, to the manner in which our clients live the remainder of their lives after tragedies most of us would fear to even imagine.  Certainly, doing what we do every day would be much more difficult, if not impossible, were it not for clients such as these, who through their efforts, are making the next tragedy less likely than those which came before.

Article first appeared in Southern Trial Lawyer’s Association’s newsletter JUSTLAW

Author: Christopher Marlowe, The Haggard Law Firm

Anatomy of Your Case

Most people don’t know how a lawsuit works until it happens. These are the stages of a suit, and how we work with you to improve the chances of a satisfactory result. In a small firm like ours, the attorneys, investigators, paralegals and secretaries work together to represent you. Sometimes, more than one lawyer will actively work on your case. We believe this team approach makes the best use of everyone’s talents to better serve our clients. www.haggardlawfirm.com 

These are the stages of your case:

  • INTERVIEW
  • INVESTIGATION
  • NEGOTIATION
  • FILING SUIT
  • PLEADINGS
  • DISCOVERY
  • TRIAL
  • UPDATING
  • COMMUNICATING

Interview

The interview is the first contact that you will have with us. Anything you tell us is protected by attorney-client privilege. Our conversations stay confidential. This is fundamental to our profession. We know it will encourage you to be candid and uninhibited in telling us everything you can about your problem. For example, in the average case, we need to know about your medical history and any other accidents and claims. Once we’ve heard your full story, we can evaluate your legal rights against those who may be responsible for your injury.

Investigaton

After the interview, we will begin to investigate your claim. Our aim is to identify those who can help in presenting your claim in court. We attempt to identify and find witnesses and preserve evidence. While we’re investigating the facts surrounding your injury, we will gather pertinent medical records and other data regarding the injury and the circumstances surrounding it. If you have lost, or continue to lose, wages because of prolonged absence from work as a result of your injuries, we will obtain copies of your work attendance records. For this, we need written authorizations from you to obtain evidence of your earnings, wages, and/or business profits if it is appropriate to do so. If a claim of lost earnings is involved, we will eventually be required to substantiate that claim with these records. In some instances, you may have to produce prior tax returns. On occasion, in our investigations we may come upon information adverse to your case. If so, at the appropriate time, we will explain to you the effects of this adverse information on your case and tell you what to expect from our representation.

Negotiation

Once we have completed the investigation, we’ll be in a position to evaluate more accurately your claim’s worth. This allows us to begin negotiating with insurance representatives and/or lawyers to try to settle your claim.

As soon as possible, we usually notify the other party or parties involved by letter informing them that we represent you, and that they are not to contact you directly. We request that they contact us regarding negotiation or settlement. In appropriate cases, we will make every effort to settle your case without the necessity of filing suit with all its expenses and delays. In other cases, we may decide that it is better to immediately file a formal lawsuit rather than attempt to settle the case before filing suit.

Each case is different, and we make this determination on the basis of each case’s circumstances. As we review your case, we will form judgments about the predicted outcome both in terms of winning and value. To win, we must convince a jury that the wrongdoer was careless, or that the product was unnecessarily or unexpectedly hazardous, or that professional conduct in treating was substandard.

At the same time, those who represent the wrongdoer (called the defendant after suit was filed) will try to defeat your case, or diminish its value substantially, by criticizing you as having been careless, inattentive, or negligent in putting yourself in the predicament that led to injury. Necessarily, there is an unavoidable uncertainty in trying a lawsuit for you. The people who make up a jury are different. Some may be inclined to sympathize and identify with you greatly. Others may be unsympathetic by virtue of their own experience and background. Our objective is to obtain adequate compensation for you. Since our firm’s members have represented thousands of injured people for more than 30 years, we’ve developed a wealth of experience in trying and evaluating cases. As you might expect, the legal proof and strength of your case affects the value of any judgment. The severity and permanence of any injuries, together with the costs of medical treatment, and wage and income loss all enter into our assessment of the your case’s value.

Most cases settle. Insurance companies conduct investigations just as we do. Under the rules of discovery following the filing of a lawsuit, we can learn as much about the other side’s case as they can about ours. Because of this free exchange of information, lawyers from both sides will have an accurate prediction of the evidence in most cases. Insurance companies will compare your case to similar cases in our area and nationwide.

The lines of communication between you and our office for negotiated settlements always will remain open. Things may change during the course of representing you. While we are eager to proceed to trial on your behalf, sometimes witnesses become unavailable due to sickness, death, or relocation. Witnesses in trial may forget important details, change their minds, or become frightened by questioning. Doctors may disagree on the nature and extent of injuries. These factors, and many others, affect the value of your case both during settlement negotiations and in front of a jury.

Settlements can be reached at any stage of your case, even after the start of a trial or even after a verdict. It is common to settle a case while a matter is on appeal. We will give you our best advice as to whether you should accept or reject any offer or settlement. Some people are satisfied with an offer we consider low. Others are dissatisfied with an offer that we recommend accepting. As your attorney, we serve as your agent. We will give our recommendations with your best interests at heart, but will respect your decision.

Filing Suit

Frequently, settlement negotiations do not succeed unless suit is filed. That way, the insurance company is fully aware that you are serious in pursuing your claim to a just conclusion, by jury trial if necessary. At other times, we know that, with certain types of cases or with certain insurance companies, it is better to file suit at the outset rather than waste time conducting meaningless settlement negotiations. If settlement negotiations fail, we generally will file suit on your behalf without further consultation with you. To do this, we draft a formal legal paper called a complaint and file it with the appropriate court.

Pleadings

Every lawsuit starts with the filing of a formal complaint. A complaint describes the basis of the case in specific legal terminology. The defendants respond in a legal pleading, called an Answer. They usually deny each allegation in the complaint and set forth their defenses. Defendants, in return, often make a number of motions to request more information to be placed in their pleading.

Discovery

While your suit is pending, formal legal discovery takes place. The insurance company lawyer will send us written questions, called interrogatories, for you to answer. We usually will provide as much information to answer those questions as we can from the investigation already in our file.

Then we will forward those questions to you for review and completion. Your answers will be sworn under oath, and copies of them will be filed with the court and with the lawyer who submitted them. We also will send written interrogatories to the opposing parties requiring them to answer under oath. Sworn interrogatories are sent by both sides in a case. They require detailed answers in writing to various question. Each side has the right to require the other to produce documents or tangible items upon request. Usually, the other side has 30 days to respond, but this can vary, depending on the type of discovery used.

Once those questions and answers have been exchanged, we conduct depositions. A deposition is a formal statement, under oath, given in response to questioning by the lawyers in the case. Defense attorneys have the right to take your deposition, to ask you about what happened, how you have been injured, and other background information. We also have the right to take depositions of the defendants. Depositions of witnesses to the accident or injuries may also be taken. We will send more complete instructions about depositions when yours is scheduled, and we will review your case and expected testimony with you on the day your deposition is conducted. In a personal injury suit, you may also be required to submit to an examination by an insurance company doctor to evaluate your injuries. Under certain conditions, you may also be required to produce for the insurance company photographs, materials, documents and records connected with your claim and authorizations for the insurance company lawyer to get your past and present employment and medical records.

At the same time the defense is learning what your case is about, we learn are about the other side’s case by using the same legal mechanisms – interrogatories, depositions, requests for admission and requests for production.

 

 

Trial

Most injury cases do not go to trial. Still, if settlement negotiations fail, the case goes to trial. It is impossible to predict when a trial will take place. Each judge has a different trial schedule. The trial could take place anywhere from eight months to 18 months from the time it is first requested to be schedule.

A request for trial cannot be made until the end of the pleading stage. Once a trial scheduled, it is often rescheduled – and often more than once – through a continuance granted by the judge. Defendants will usually try to do everything to delay the trial, as the insurance companies make interest on the money they have to pay. Our job is to try to move it along as quickly as possible.

About 30 days before the trial, a pretrial conference takes place. At this conference before the judge, each side names all of its witnesses and lists all of its exhibits. The trial will be tried before six jurors selected at random. A panel of jurors will be selected with their names drawn by lot, and attorneys will examine them. Each side is entitled to challenge potential jurors for selection, with six selected at the end.

Updating

It is imperative that you keep us advised of names and addresses of all doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers that treat you for injuries. Always send us copies of medical bills and other expenses relating to your case. You should also let us know generally about all subsequent health problems, so we can determine whether they affect your case or not.

INFORM US IMMEDIATELY ABOUT ANY SUDDEN CHANGE IN YOUR HEALTH, YOUR ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER, OR INFORMATION YOU HAVE CONCERNING WITNESSES OR EVIDENCE IN THE CASE!

Communicating

We will contact you whenever fact questions arise during our investigation, or differ from your impression the accident or your injuries. Also, we will call whenever there are concrete offers of settlement. Occasionally you will want to call us. We are happy to hear from you, and we will do our best to answer your calls immediately and will return them as soon as possible.

HAGGARD LAW FIRM OBTAINS $1.6 MILLION VERDICT 

The Haggard Law Firm’s team recently won an incredibly hard fought battle for sexual assault victim, Amanda Slone, when a Broward County jury returned a verdict on Thursday, June 23, for $1.6 million after three weeks of trial.  This is an incredible journey where defendant Cornerstone Residential Management, which is one of the largest commercial property management companies in the country, brutally attacked Amanda Slone’s story and her family’s background in trying to secure a court victory.  During the discovery phase of the case over 37 depositions were taken across several states.

This is a victory not only for Amanda Slone, but perhaps more importantly for sexual assault victims, as the defense incredulously claimed that Amanda had made up her story of the brutal rape that occurred on September 27, 2008 at Imperial States Mobile Home Park.

“I understand that it was his job to defend his client,” Slone said. “But it made me feel horrible, being told I’m a liar, that I made the whole thing up.”

For far too long sexual assault victims have had to live with the stigma of guilt, shame and questions about the worst day of their lives.  Unfortunately, Cornerstone and its lawyers tried the same tactic against Amanda Slone.

 

Amanda Slone v. Cornerstone Residential Management

VERDICT $1.6 Million – Negligent Security

It was 5:00 am when Amanda was awoken by the sight of the assailant’s handgun. The assailant demanded Amanda’s money and that no noise be made or she and her Grandfather, who was sleeping in the other room, would be executed. After informing the assailant she had no money, the assailant violently grabbed Amanda, continued to point the pistol at her body, and dragged her out of the trailer’s back door.

 

The assailant commanded Amanda at gunpoint to walk North, away from the trailer. Amanda walked through the Imperial Estates Mobile Home Park while the assailant continued to point his handgun directly at her back. After walking one and a half blocks in search for the perfect area to commit his heinous criminal deed, the assailant chose a dark wooded area on the Imperial Estates property and sexually assaulted her.

 

The Imperial Estates Mobile Home Park, from which Amanda Slone was abducted and raped, was dangerous. There was at least one stabbing, a shooting, another attempted sexual assault, and an attempted abduction of a young girl from her bicycle, all within a few years leading up to Amanda Slone’s assault. The police have testified that this was the most troublesome property within their patrol route.

 

The defense retained former FBI Agent, Greg McCrary, as a Security expert. Unfortunately, Mr. McCrary went further than giving an Opinion that the Defendants had Adequate Security. Mr. McCrary actually changed his Opinion at trial and testified that he felt a Crime did not occur. Thankfully, the jury rejected Mr. McCrary’s new testimony. Throughout the case, the Defendant maintained that it owed no duty to Amanda Slone whatsoever, relying upon the Florida Mobile Home Act for this argument. Despite the well settled nature of this issue, the Defendant insisted in its court filings that the 4thDistrict Court of Appeals “law clerks [failed] to undertake the same basic legal research” as the Defendant.

 

Hopefully, this Verdict will compensate Amanda Slone for the horrific experience that she went through on September 27, 2008, and continues till this day. It is also the hope of The Haggard Law Firm that this Verdict and others like it will empower Sexual Assault Victims in their daily battles with the Stigma that society and unscrupulous Corporations and their agents continue to label upon them.

 

The Haggard Law Firm team was lead by attorney Christopher Marlowe along with co-counsel Michael Haggard.  Attorney Jason Brenner and legal assistant Nory Lopez also assisted with the case and trial.