CSK Partners Barry Postman and Karly Wannos obtained a complete defense verdict in a high-profile 5-day bench trial in West Palm Beach. CSK represented a wealthy businessman and a local preparatory school he founded in a claim brought by the school’s former Athletic Director for defamation. The Plaintiff was represented by Jack Scarola of Searcy Denny Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, PA, and the case was litigated for 3 years. The Court allowed Plaintiffs to plead punitive damages, and Plaintiff and his wife asked for over $18 Million in damages at trial. The presiding judge took the matter under advisement for several months before issuing a reasoned order, whereby all of Plaintiffs’ claims were rejected. Jana Leichter and Michelle Frezer-D’Alena assisted in the trial preparation.
CSK Partners Gene Kissane and Benjamin Esco received a great trial result, following a 7-Day Trial for a very serious auto accident case. The 17-year old plaintiff was a passenger in the backseat of our 17-year old insured’s new BMW. The insured was driving his friends to school. The insured was speeding (62 in a 40 ) and ran a red light. At the same time, another car was making a left turn into the intersection, and the insured struck the other car without braking, causing the insured’s vehicle to careen into a light pole, stopping the car instantly.
The backseat passenger, whom we contended was unbelted, struck his head on the metal Headrest frame and sustained a concussion with an open head wound (100 Stitches) and a fractured neck. He was unconscious for 10-20 minutes and claimed severe brain damage and an aggravation of a pre-existing learning disability. Past meds were approximately 400k, including 3 hospitalizations, open neck surgery, and a subsequent syncopal admission, with continued balance/tinnitus/Vestibular/ROM therapy for the past 4 years, and continuing in the future. The plaintiff continues to treat.
Plaintiff’s testifying medical experts included a neurosurgeon, a neurologist, a behavioral psychologist, a Balance Disorder Doctor, and a neuropsychologist. They also offered an Accident reconstruction Expert and a Biomechanical/Biomedical Expert.
CSK was able to strike the claim for 53.4 years of future medicals.
In closing, Plaintiff asked for $13.2m and that the jury apportion 100% fault against our insured driver. The Jury deliberated a little over two hours and returned a Verdict (after application of the lien reduction for past meds) of $766k, of which we were to pay only 30%. The jury apportioned 55% fault against the Fabre Driver and 15% Comparative Negligence against the plaintiff, based on our seatbelt defense. Our insured’s portion of the Total Verdict was therefore $230k, which after application of another setoff for a pre-suit contribution by a primary carrier, resulted in a Net Judgment entered against our insured of Zero dollars.
CSK’s Elisabeth Espinosa and Leah Ikerd assisted with evidence preparation and jury instructions. A special thanks also during trial to Sam Basch, Dennis Egitto, Scott Cole and Tom Hunker for legal and expert testimony analysis during trial.
Jonathan Midwall and Arthur Alves obtained a very good result last week following a 4 day Jury trial in Broward County. The Plaintiff, a sympathetic 87 year old grandmother, claimed that the property manager and owner of an apartment building were negligent by failing to properly inspect her apartment unit for bedbugs when she complained she was being bitten by the same and they purposely failed to perform an appropriate response to her ongoing complaints in an effort to prevent her from breaking her lease. The Plaintiff alleged that as a result of the Defendants’ negligence that she suffered permanent nerve damage from bedbug bites stemming from allergic reactions and that she suffered continuing anxiety and mental anguish from her persisting fear of bedbugs. Plaintiff also cited to a dermatologist expert and neurologist in support of her claims.
In closing arguments, the Plaintiff’s counsel asked for “a minimum of $500,000.00” for his client’s permanent nerve damage and continuing anxiety as a result of her bedbug bites. After deliberating for nearly five hours, the jury issued a defense verdict for the property owner and awarded only $26,100.00 in damages against the management company.
A Proposal for Settlement was served on the Plaintiff on October 11, 2018 for a total of $30,000.00 apportioned evenly between the two Defendants. Thus, the property will have a claim for attorney’s fees and costs against the Plaintiff which may offset the judgment and result in a judgment against the Plaintiff herself for the property owner’s fees and costs.
Olga Butkevich did an exceptional job in working up the file. Michelle Frezer D’Alena and Linda Cohen worked tirelessly in trial preparation.
Rebecca Ortiz v. Chapters Health System, Inc./Travelers – Tampa District
Denise Murray of the Tampa office secured a complete defense verdict in a workers’ compensation case with potential exposure exceeding $500,000.00. The Claimant is a 56-year-old Hospice Aide who injured her lower back when assisting a patient while working for the Employer in 2014. She underwent lumbar surgery and received ongoing medical care as well as pain management.
The Claimant filed a Petition for Benefits requesting permanent total disability benefits and the Employer/Carrier raised a misrepresentation defense. The Claimant told her physicians she was by all practical means “disabled” and unable to perform even simple activities of daily living or engaging in any sort of work. The defense was based upon video surveillance of the Claimant which was purportedly inconsistent with the presentation and complaints she made to the authorized medical providers as well as the vocational expert.
Based upon the evidence presented, the JCC found the Claimant made misleading oral statements to her treating providers and the vocational expert as well as during her deposition. Furthermore, the JCC determined that the Claimant made such misrepresentations to enhance her claim for PTD benefits. Accordingly, the Petition for Benefits was denied and the Claimant is barred from receiving any additional benefits.
CSK paralegal Shelly Zambo was featured in a recent Florida Bar newsletter for her article on the future of Florida Registered Paralegals. Ms. Zambo and fellow CSK paralegal Karen George were recently appointed to serve on the Florida Registered Paralegals Enrichment Committee, an honor that reflects their dedication to the betterment of the Florida legal profession. Read on for Ms. Zambo’s featured article.
THE FLORIDA BAR FRP ENRICHMENT COMMITTEE IS ON THE MOVE
The future is bright for Florida Registered Paralegals. The inaugural meeting of the Florida Bar’s newly-formed Florida Registered Paralegal Enrichment Committee was held at the Bar’s Winter Meeting on January 18, 2019 in Orlando. The mission of the Paralegal Enrichment Committee is to bring more awareness to the legal community as to how valuable Florida Registered Paralegals are to the legal profession. The Committee members consist of 40 FRP’s throughout the State of Florida who have been appointed by Florida Bar President, Michelle Suskauer, based upon each individual’s background and experience as a Florida Registered Paralegal and interest in promoting the paralegal profession. The meeting was also attended by Wendy Toscano, Esquire, Hilary Creary, Esquire, Frank Digon-Greer, Esquire, and Terry Hill. Attorney Wendy Toscano sits on both the FRP Eligibility and Compliance Committee and the FRP Enrichment Committee. Attorney Hilary Creary has been appointed as the Board of Governor’s Liaison. Assistant Director of the Programs Division Frank Digon-Greer is the staff member appointed to the committee by The Florida Bar. Terry Hill is the Division Director of the Programs Division at The Florida Bar where he leads a team of 5 department heads and 65 staff members.
Committee Chair, Lori Spangler, and Co-Vice Committee Chairs, Wendy Toscano and Margo Valenti, formed the following four Sub-Committees whose members chose the chair for their committees: FRP Awareness Committee Chair: Patricia C. DeRamus, ACP, FRP; Communication Committee Chair: Margo Valenti, FRP; CLE Committee Chair: Michelle M. Arty, ACP, FRP; and Special Project Committee Chair: Laura Zaharian, FRP. Members of the Enrichment Committee were asked to choose their Sub-Committee and they broke out into their respective groups to create their mission statement and goals to accomplish their mission. The purpose of the Sub-Committee formation is to better serve the legal community and to bring awareness to legal professionals as to the benefits of becoming a Florida Registered Paralegal.
The mission statements were defined for each Sub-Committee. The FRP Awareness Sub-Committee will create and promote awareness of the Florida Registered Paralegal Program and its benefits through outreach among the legal community. The Communications Sub-Committee will convey the objectives of the FRP Enrichment Committee and its appointed Sub-Committees through various forms of communication pursuant to the guidelines of The Florida Bar. The CLE Sub-Committee will organize and coordinate meaningful CLE seminars directed to the overall enrichment of the paralegal profession. The Special Project Committee’s primary focus is to plan and present a special CLE program and reception at The Florida Bar’s Annual Convention. Please be on the lookout for an email blast to register for the June 2019 Annual Convention in Boca Raton at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
Expect to see more from the members of the FRP Enrichment Committee as they strive to increase awareness and promote the benefits of FRP membership throughout the state.
CSK is proud to share that two of our Florida Registered Paralegals have been appointed by the Florida Bar President to serve a four-year term on the FRP Enrichment Committee. Shelly Zambo and Karen George, along with 40 other FRP’s around the state, were appointed by the Florida Bar President to this newly created board to represent and promote the profession and to bring awareness to legal professionals of the importance of becoming a Florida Registered Paralegal. Congratulations Karen and Shelly!
INSURANCE – MIAMI-DADE CIRCUIT COURT
Homeowners’ Water Damage Claim Rejected Over Covered Peril
A judge rejected three homeowners who claimed their insurer improperly denied a property-damage claim. In 2015, Sandra Gonzalez, Yean Gonzalez and Jose Perez claimed their Miami home in Miami sustained water damage from a roof leak and filed a claim with their carrier, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., to cover the water damage. Citizens Property denied the claim, and the plaintiffs sued for breach of contract. After plaintiff’s counsel rested its case, the defense moved for a directed verdict. The defense argued the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to establish a covered peril caused an opening in the roof or wall and rain entered through that opening. Judge Spencer Eig granted the defense motion.
Case: Gonzalez v. Citizens Property insurance
Case No.: 2016-000304-CA-01
Plaintiff’s attorneys: Dennis Gonzalez Jr. and Manuel Herrera, Gonzalez & Herrera, Miami; and Raphael A. Sanchez, The Law Office of Raphael A. Sanchez, Miami
Defense attorneys: Lindsey R. Halligan, Fort Lauderdale, and George Hooker, Miami, Cole, Scott & Kissane
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE – BROWARD CIRCUIT COURT
Cardiologist Cleared in 41-Year-Old Patient’s Death
A jury decided a cardiologist was not liable in the death of a patient he was treating at a hospital. Lisa Macko, 41, a mother of two, died from cardiac arrest on July 8, 2014, a day after she went to a hospital emergency room complaining of severe chest pain. She was seen by an on-call cardiologist, Dr. David Jurkovich. Macko’s estate sued Jurkovich, alleging he failed to diagnose spontaneous dissection of the coronary artery, a known postpartum condition. The defense contended a catheterization had not revealed an indication of an arterial dissection. The estate countered that a sonogram should have been performed, but the defense contended the test itself could have proven fatal. The jury sided with Jurkovich.
Case: Estate of Macko v. Jurkovich.
Case No.: CACE16007056
Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Michael Cecere, Cecere Santana, Plantation; and Stacie L. Cohen and Jeffrey M. Fenster, Fenster & Cohen, Plantation
Defense attorneys: Jonathan Midwall, Cole, Scott & Kissane, Miami