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
CSK’s George Hooker and Lindsey Halligan secured a complete defense verdict in a denied roof leak case in Broward County. Plaintiffs claimed their roof was damaged by wind, but George and Lindsey presented evidence that the roof was old and just past its normal life expectancy. The jury was out 45 minutes before finding the Plaintiffs didn’t even meet their initial burden of showing a sudden and accidental loss during the policy period. Benaejah Simmonds, Ismary Cepero and Suly Birnbaum assisted with case work-up and defense.
Howard Scholl and Eric Nelsestuen, a partner and associate, respectively, in Cole, Scott & Kissane’s Tampa Office, recently tried a rear-end admitted liability case where Plaintiff, who was a long term diabetic with chronic kidney disease, claimed injuries to his neck and back. He underwent extensive chiropractic treatment, ESI and had a multilevel fusion recommendation. Additionally, he claimed that because of the overall impact of his injuries, he transitioned from stage 4 chronic kidney disease to complete renal failure, necessitating dialysis three times a week. Plaintiff presented past medical bills approaching $1,000,000 and requested an award of future medical expenses of $12,000,000. The jury deliberated for just under 3 hours and returned a verdict of $93,748.66, and found no permanent injury. This was Mr. Nelsestuen’s first trial with Cole, Scott & Kissane, having joined the firm 5 months prior.
Dan Shapiro and Michele Bartels, partners in Cole, Scott & Kissane’s Tampa Office obtained an extremely favorable verdict of $21,000 in a rear-end auto accident heavily contested litigation involving multiple vehicles, having admitted liability. The Plaintiff had undergone several years of treatment including 2 back surgeries and total medicals exceeded $560,000. Plaintiff proposed a life care plan of $4.5 million at trial.
Barry Postman of CSK’s West Palm Beach office and Michael Brand of CSK’s Miami office obtained a defense verdict after a two week jury trial that concluded on Friday in Miami. The plaintiff was former Miami Dolphins football player – OJ McDuffie. He claimed that the team physician for the Miami Dolphins committed malpractice when he treated him for an on the field injury causing him to prematurely end his career and lose out on millions of dollars in future NFL contracts. The case was previously handled by a different law firm and went to trial in 2010 resulting in a $11.5 million dollar verdict for Mr. McDuffie. After the verdict was thrown out, CSK was asked to handle the retrial. Both Dan Marino and Coach Jimmy Johnson were witnesses in the case. The Plaintiff asked the jury to award $19.9 million dollars and turned down a one million dollar settlement offer that was on the table until the jury came back with a defense verdict.
Ten years ago, Cole Scott & Kissane and its partner, Jonathan Vine, was hired to represent a Chicago lawyer and his law firm in a legal malpractice action brought in West Palm Beach. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were a husband and wife who owned an investment firm and a broker/dealer who had been sued by the SEC in an enforcement action alleging that the husband and wife had defrauded their clients out of millions of dollars (a Ponzi-scheme, of sorts). The allegation was that their lawyer in the action brought by the SEC committed malpractice in the defense he provided, causing millions of dollars in unnecessary legal fees and damages. CSK aggressively litigated this matter on behalf of their clients for the past ten years, culminating in trial. Right before the trial, the prominent law firm handling the case for the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case on behalf of the wife in exchange for an agreement of the defense to not go after her for attorneys’ fees and costs. The husband decided to proceed to trial without counsel, with the Chicago lawyer and law firm represented at trial by our own Jonathan Vine and Barry Postman – partners in the Cole, Scott & Kissane West Palm Beach office. One of the two witnesses for plaintiff attesting to the legitimacy and satisfaction of provision of investment brokerage services was a former 4th DCA appellate judge. Plaintiff also elicited testimony from the investment firm’s compliance officer. Upon Mr. Vine’s vigorous cross examination of the witnesses, the plaintiff agreed to voluntarily dismiss his case also in exchange for an agreement not to seek fees and costs. Mr. Vine and Mr. Postman were assisted by CSK’s Josh Goldstein, Eric Sprechman and Michelle Frezer-D’Alena to achieve the great result that was obtained in this case.