Court Dismisses Wrongful Death Claim Against Riverside Hotel
In 2012, a drunk driver drove into a pool cabana wall at the Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. The structure collapsed, killing a pregnant woman, Alanna Demella, and injuring her husband Michael. The driver’s blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit.
Michael filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hotel, alleging that it was negligent to locate the cabanas so close to a curvy road when it was foreseeable that a car could lose control and cause an accident like the one that killed Alanna. He also filed a wrongful death claim against the driver.
A jury awarded him $24 million in damages, assigning most of the blame to the drunk driver. But the jury found that the hotel was responsible for 15 percent of the damages, or $3.6 million. The hotel appealed that decision to a state appeals court.
Florida’s Wrongful Death Act
If a loved one dies because of someone else’s negligence, that person’s family might be entitled to damages. Florida law designates spouses, parents, children, and any other dependents as “survivors” eligible for compensation in the event of a wrongful death.
Specifically, a survivor can file a wrongful death lawsuit when someone’s wrongful act, negligence, default of contract, breach of contract, or breach of warranty results in the loved one’s death. Survivors might be entitled to compensation for lost wages, lost companionship, emotional suffering and other types of damages, depending on whether the survivor is a spouse, parent, child or other dependent. The loved one may also seek damages to cover funeral expenses.
Hotel owners like Riverside may be liable under the wrongful death lawsuit if their negligence results in the death of a guest.
Florida hotel owners are responsible for protecting guests against known and reasonably ascertainable dangers. Under Florida premises liability law, hotel guests are considered “invitees,” and owners can be held liable for injuries that they suffer on their property.
Note that the law classifies victims in one of three ways: invitee, licensee or trespasser. The duty of care the owner owes to a specific person depends on that legal classification. Owners owe the highest duty of care to people they invite onto their property for business or personal reasons, like hotel guests.
However, the appeals court recently dismissed Michael Demella’s wrongful death lawsuit against Riverside because he couldn’t prove that the hotel knew that the road by the cabanas was dangerous. There wasn’t any evidence that anyone else had ever lost control and hit the cabanas.
It’s not always easy proving a wrongful death or personal injury case. An experienced attorney can examine the facts of your claim and help you present an effective lawsuit.
Contact Us Today
Contact a Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver or in an accident caused by hotel negligence. We will help recover the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Miami, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Tampa, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.