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$1.25 Million Verdict - VA Hosptial Malpractice

Federal Judge Awards $1.25 Million in First Malpractice Trial against VA Hospital over Contaminated Endoscope

Judge Adalberto Jordan entered his ruling Nov 19th, awarding Robert Metlzer and his wife $1.25 Million for Pain & Suffering and Economic Loss

Miami, Florida, December 2012 – After 16 months of deliberation, Federal Judge Adalberto Jordan has entered a ruling in favor of the Plaintiff in the first Jury trial in a medical malpractice case against a United States VA Hospital for improperly sanitizing medical equipment and infecting patients with blood borne diseases including HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B. “We hope that this verdict will go a long way in promoting quality health care for our veterans seeking health care at Veteran administration and military hospitals and clinics throughout our Country. The men and women that serve our country in this capacity deserve the best care, not sloppy, dirty and dangerous medical care,” said Ervin A. Gonzalez, attorney for Mr. & Mrs. Robert Metzler.

The case alleged that Robert Metzler, a 69 year old Air Force Veteran, contracted Hepatitis C at the Miami VA hospital as a result of the hospitals improper sanitation practices. On June 13, 2007, Mr. Metzler underwent a colonoscopy with lesion removal at the Miami VA Healthcare Center. On March 23, 2009, Mr. Metzler was notified by letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs that he should be tested for certain blood borne illnesses, including hepatitis, because some medical equipment used in the endoscopies and colonoscopies at the VA were not properly sanitized in between patient procedures. After receiving the letter, Mr. Metzler was tested in March 27, 2009 and found to have Hepatitis C. Based on his having previously tested negative for Hepatitis in August 2006, Mr. Metzler’s VA doctors determined that this was a “new, active infection.” As a result of the negligence of the VA staff and health care providers, Mr. Metzler contracted Hepatitis C during a routine medical procedure because the equipment was not properly cleaned, sterilized, or sanitized.

The case was tried in Federal Court by Ervin A. Gonzalez and Deborah J. Gander from July 11 – 17th, 2011 on behalf of the plaintiffs. The United States of America Dept. of Veterans Affairs was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Rosen


$1 Million Verdict - Maritime Negligence Case

Jury Awards $1 Million to Celebrity Cruise Crew Member

A Miami Jury Found Celebrity Cruise Line Negligent in its Care and Treatment of its Employee and awarded a $1 Million verdict.

Miami, November 21, 2011 - Attorney Ervin A. Gonzalez obtained a $1 Million Dollar jury verdict against Celebrity Cruises for crew member Shaleesh Buttoo, who underwent unnecessary surgery to insert a pacemaker.

Mr. Buttoo was an employee of Celebrity Cruises. Celebrity Cruises flew the 31-year old chef from Europe to Santo Domingo, via the U.S., after he complained of severe headaches and pain to his face while working on a Celebrity cruise ship. He was told that he had a heart condition and immediately underwent surgery to have a pacemaker inserted. For months following the surgery, Mr. Buttoo continued to have symptoms and suffered debilitating injuries, forcing him to use a walker. Mr. Buttoo took it upon himself to see a doctor in the United States, where he learned that the cause of his headaches and facial pain was a sinus condition and not his heart. He underwent a second surgery in Miami to have the unnecessary pacemaker removed.

Gonzalez argued that Celebrity Cruises sent his client to Santo Domingo to save money on medical costs, rather than sending him to a qualified doctor, and that as a result, he was misdiagnosed and harmed from the unnecessary pacemaker. The jury agreed and awarded Buttoo $1 Million.


$2.5 Million Verdict - Chinese Drywall

Nation's First Chinese Drywall Jury Trial

Jury Awards $2.5 Million to Miami Couple in the

Nation’s First Chinese Drywall Jury Trial

 

- Banner Supply Co. Found Liable for Knowingly Selling Defective Drywall -

 

 

Miami, Florida, June 2010 – A Miami couple was awarded $2.5 million in damages in the nation's first Chinese drywall jury trial. Jurors found Banner Supply Company liable for knowingly selling the defective drywall used in Armin and Lisa Seifart’s $1.6 million home.

 

On Thursday June 17th, after a two week trial, Armin and Lisa Seifart’s attorney, Ervin A. Gonzalez of Colson Hicks Eidson, argued that Banner Supply Company had knowledge, as early as 2006, that their Chinese drywall was defective and that it sold the defective drywall to the Seifarts after entering into a confidential agreement with manufacturer Knauf Plasterboard Tianjian to not disclose the defect to others.   “Banner Supply had a chance to be a national hero,” said Gonzalez.  “Instead, they chose to save their own skin and didn’t disclose to others what they knew – that the drywall was defective.”

 

Gonzalez also argued that the Siefarts should receive more than just the $491,000 in costs of gutting and renovating their home, valued at $1.6 million and that they should also be awarded damages for loss of enjoyment of the house and for the drywall stigma that might reduce its resale value.

 

After deliberating for almost 12 hours, the 6 person Miami Dade jury agreed with Gonzalez and awarded the Seifarts $2.5 million in damages.  “This was a very important case, not only for my clients, but for the thousands of Chinese drywall victims out there,” said Gonzalez.  “The jury sent a clear message to Banner. You can’t put profits over people or sales over safety and expect to get away with it. We hope this case sets the tone for all the others out there that have suffered as a result of big companies doing bad things.”

 

Chinese dry wall has damaged thousands of homes in the State of Florida and other states. Banner Supply Co. is named in thousands of other lawsuits.  The Seifart verdict will serve as a guide to other attorneys in those cases, as well as many others pending nationwide against other companies.




$11.5 Million - Wrongful Death - Auto Accident



Jury Awards $11.5 Million to Wife and Children of N. Miami Beach Police Officer Killed in Tragic Car Accident

-F.D.O.T. and Driver Found to be Negligent - 

 

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, December 8, 2008 – At 12:00 am December 6, 2008, a Broward County Jury awarded 42 year old Yvette Lorenzo, and her three daughters, $11.5 Million in compensatory damages against the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and William and Natasha Russo, for the wrongful death of her husband, N. Miami Beach Police Officer Orestes “Oreo” Lorenzo.  The case was one of three “emergency” trials being tried in the Broward County Courthouse, which was closed to the public due to flooding caused by a water main break.

On July 2, 2004, 40 year old Officer “Oreo” Lorenzo, a highly decorated Police officer with the City of North Miami Beach Police Department, was driving westbound on Pines Boulevard (SR 820) in Pembroke Pines, Florida when 18 year old Natasha Russo, driving her father’s (William Russo) new red Honda Civic, failed to stop at a stop sign on 180th avenue and attempted to make a left turn eastbound on to Pines Boulevard, causing Officer Lorenzo to swerve to avoid a direct impact with Ms. Russo's car.  As a result, his car swerved and tripped on the median curb of Pines Blvd., rolled over, and slammed up against a very large Royal Palm tree within the median that crushed the roof of his police car and ejected Officer Lorenzo into the street. Officer Lorenzo sustained a serious head injury that resulted in his death exactly one week later on July 9, 2004. 

 

The lawsuit alleged that Ms. Russo was negligent for failing to remain stopped at the stop sign and yield the right of way to Officer Lorenzo.  The lawsuit also alleged that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) violated its own internal rules and standards by allowing a drainage curb (referred to by the Department as an "F" curb) and very large Royal Palm trees to be present in the median of a road with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour.  “The Florida Department of Transportation rules do not allow curbs and Royal Palm Trees to be present on roads with speed limits greater than 45 miles per hour precisely because of the danger that they present to motorists who may roll over when they impact the curb of the median at high speeds.”, said Ervin A. Gonzalez, attorney for the Lorenzo Family.  “Had the FDOT implemented its own rules, there would be no “F” curb or rigid tree trunks on Pines Blvd. and Officer Lorenzo would have walked away from the accident.”

 

The Jury agreed and found in favor of “Oreo” Lorenzo’s family awarding them 70% of the total $11,537,700.  The Jury found Natasha Russo 55% responsible, The FDOT, 15 % responsible and Orestes Lorenzo, himself, 30% responsible for the accident.  Based on the verdict, the defendants, Natasha and William Russo, and the FDOT owe the Lorenzo family $6,345,735, and $1,730,655, respectively for economic and non economic damages.   “While no money will fairly compensate the family for their loss, the verdict recognizes the tremendous harm that the Defendant’s negligence caused this beautiful family.” said Gonzalez. "This tragedy would have been avoided if Ms. Russo had been paying attention and if the FDOT had followed its own rules and standards. As a community we rely on the implementation of FDOT’s rules and standards we need to make sure that these dangerous curbs and Royal Palm Trees are limited to roads with appropriate design speeds so that this type of tragedy never happens again. "

 

Officer “Oreo” Lorenzo served eight years on the force where he worked road patrol, became a field-training officer, joined the SWAT team, and rose to detective, earning awards and commendations along the way, including  “Police Officer of the Year” and a medal of valor for resuscitated a girl who had been struck by lightning, saving her life. He was a respected community leader, a girl’s soccer team coach, a great friend, colleague, father and husband.  His loss was described by numerous witnesses at the trial as devastating.  Officer Lorenzo is survived by his wife, Yvette Lorenzo, 42, and daughters, Leilani, 19, Brianni, 17 and Rachel, 10. 




$11 Million Settlement - Tanker Truck Explosion

$11 Million Wrongul Death Death Settlement

Children of Prominent New Jersey Couple Settle Law Suit

Against Tanker Case for Wrongful Death of Parents.

 

- Insurance Company settled the policy limit of $11 Million during mediation -

 

Miami, Florida December 3, 2007 -   The lawsuit filed in Miami Dade County on behalf of Michael Klein and Lisa Klein, for the wrongful death of their parents Alan B. Klein, 52 and Deborah M. Klein, 49, both from Cherry Hill New Jersey, was settled during mediation on November 30,2007 for $11 million. 

 

Deborah and Alan Klein were in Florida to visit his father, Morton Klein, 78, who was gravely ill.  On February 11, 2005, at approximately 10:30 pm, the couple was traveling northbound, in the left lane, approaching the entrance ramp of State Road 91 in Broward County, Florida in a 2003 Ford vehicle.  Traveling with them were 2 other relatives.  Behind them, in the right lane, was a tanker trunk that had just left Port Everglades, loaded with approximately 9,000 gallons of fuel.  Both drivers were approaching a two lane curve. The confidential settlement prohibits the disclosure of the defendants.

 

According to witnesses,  the tanker made the turn too fast, skidded approximately 30 feet, flipped onto its left side, landed on the Klein’s vehicle, slid 40 feet, pinned the car against the guardrail and then exploded and burst into flames.  The flames burned at temperatures between 1200 and 2200 degrees – hot enough that it melted the asphalt and the aluminum of both vehicles, and left the victims charred beyond recognition.  DNA tests revealed that Deborah and Alan Klein were two of the victims.

 

The lawsuit alleged that the Miami based tanker company and its driver were responsible for the death of the Kleins due to negligence, including: negligent & reckless driving; failing to exercise reasonable care while operating a fuel tanker containing volatile fuel; negligently hiring of the driver to operate the tanker when he was unqualified; negligently entrusting the tanker to the driver, who had a bad driving record; failing to properly train, instruct or supervise the driver in the safe operation of the tanker; failure to maintain the tanker; and negligently failing to meet the industry standards for safety. “The tanker company claimed that the driver was a safe driver when in fact his driving record indicated that he had 10 violations, including a ticket for driving 80 mph in a 55 mph zone,” said Ervin A. Gonzalez, attorney for the Klein’s children.  “The tanker company had a duty to know their employee’s driving record and act accordingly for the safety of others.”

 

Both Alan and Deborah Klein were successful business persons and prominent leaders in their community.  Alan Klein was President –Elect of the Jewish Community Center in New Jersey and Debbie Klein was Vice President on the board at Samost Jewish Family and Children Services.  They were deeply respected individuals and the proud parents of Michael and Lisa Klein, both college age.  The law suit sought damages on behalf of the children, who as a result of the Defendants’ negligence, lost their parents’ love, guidance, companionship, and support and will continue to do so into the future.  The two other passengers in the vehicle have also filed suit and their outcome is pending.  The Klein children’s economic damage claim, however, was expected to be the largest as a result of the relatively young age of their parents and the substantial loss of income involved.  Additionally, the Klein’s children are entitled to recover non-economic damages for the mental anguish and grief that the wrongful death of their parents caused them to suffer.  “The driver should not have been allowed to drive a tanker full of fuel,” said Gonzalez. “His reckless driving has forever altered the life of the Klein children.  Their parents in essence were cremated alive.  This should have been avoided.”




$6 Million - Ford Van Roof Crush Case



Jury Awards $6 Million to Teenager Paralyzed in Ford Van Rollover

-Ford Found Guilty of Negligence for Selling Defective Product - 

 

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, July 25, 2007 – A Ft. Lauderdale Jury awarded 22 year old Julian Felipe $6 million in compensatory damages against Ford Motor Company after finding Ford negligent for failing to to use reasonable care by placing its 1993 Aerostar Model Van on the market for sale with a defect.

On August 3, 2002 Mirtha Felipe was driving her 1993 Ford Aerostar van with her then 17 year old son, Julian Felipe, riding seatbelted in the front passenger seat when suddenly the rear tire blew out causing the van to rollover.  Upon rolling over, the van’s roof deformed and caved in, breaking Julian Felipe’s neck and permanently causing paralysis.

 

According to the lawsuit, Ford Motor Company had knowledge that there was a propensity for vans and trucks to rollover, especially after a tire blow out, and that they failed to provide adequate engineering and safety measure’s to protect consumers.  During the 6 week trial, Ford experts testified that as early as 1968 Ford knew that persons over 5 feet 2 inches tall were at risk of breaking their neck in a van or truck rollover – especially when seat belted with a traditional 3 point seat belt. “When you are seatbelted in a rollover, the seatbelt gives 4 inches and aligns you perfectly to bang your head into the roof before it crushes and finishes the job of breaking your neck,.” said Ervin A. Gonzalez attorney for Julian Felipe.  “You are actually better off not wearing a seat belt in a rollover.  Ford’s own testing proves that.  They even have video of it and notwithstanding, they do nothing to engineer the problem out, warn people or make the vehicle safer.”   Experts also testified that the roofs in trucks and vans deformed at speeds of as little as 5 mph – crushing the passenger closests to the initial impact.  “This is unacceptable and immoral in my opinion,” said Gonzalez. “The cost of fixing this problem is $25 per vehicle, but Ford figures that it is cheaper to litigate than to mitigate because the percentage of injury isn’t large enough in their opinion, so they gamble with people’s lives and put them at risk.  That’s just wrong.”

 

The 6 person jury agreed with Gonzalez on and found that Ford Motor Company failed to use reasonable care by placing the Aerostar on the market with with a defect by virtue of design, manufacturing, inspection, testing or marketing of the van’s roof structure.  “Ford didn’t listen to their experts, they didn’t listen to their engineers - maybe now they will listen to the jury and stop putting profits over people.”




$1.5 Million Verdict - Contract Dispute

Blue Cross Ordered to Pay $1.5 Million

Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO Ordered to

Pay $1.5 Million to Doctors

 

Jury Finds Health Options of Florida Liable for Pathologists’ Fees

 View Closing Argument

 

Miami, Florida - May 2, 2007 - Under the Florida HMO Act, when an HMO member is admitted to any Florida hospital, all pathology tests ordered by a physician must be covered by the HMO, including technical and professional clinical pathology laboratory services.  The costs of such tests are divided into two components: technical, which includes the hospital’s labs and equipment; and professional, which includes the services of the physician supervising and interpreting the tests.

 

In 1999 Florida’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (Health Options HMO), made a statewide business decision to stop paying all hospital pathologists for the professional component of clinical pathology medical services.  Their decision would save them $4.1 million per year.  In 2005, after years of unsuccessfully attempting to collect their fees from Health Options, Florida Pathology Services filed suit in Miami Dade County 11th Circuit Court on behalf of Palmetto General Hospital and Coral Gables Hospital, citing the Florida HMO Act and the American Medical Association (AMA) guidelines as their source for restitution.

 

On April 16, 2007, the weeklong “landmark” case began.  “This case is really about quality healthcare,” said Ervin A. Gonzalez, attorney for the Plaintiffs.  “The doctors need to get paid for supervising and interpreting lab results.  If they don’t get paid, the healthcare system will begin seeing an increase in negligence and a decrease in physicians who are willing to work in Florida. The patient will ultimately be the one that loses.”  Gonzalez argued that Health Options was required by state law to pay the professional component to the doctors and that in not doing so, it was violating state law.  On April 19th Judge Thomas “Tam” Wilson agreed and held that, as a matter of law, Health Options was legally responsible to pay the reasonable value of the professional component of the clinical pathologists’ medical services.  On April 20th the jury determined the reasonable value to be $1,546,479 and awarded the plaintiffs the entire amount they sought plus interest.

 

“This is the first case of its kind and is a landmark case,” said Gonzalez.  “The judge’s decision that payment was required by law will impact all cases in Florida and other states with similar cases.”  Gonzalez is currently representing 11 other hospital pathology groups around the state – all individually scheduled for trial in 2007 before Judge Wilson.

 




$2 Million Settlement Against Franchisor for Negligence



Legal Decision Prompts $2 Million Settlement for Boy Severly Injured by Chicken Kitchen Delivery Driver.

Jury Finds Chicken Kitchen’s National Franchisor Liable for Negligent Act of

Local Miami Franchisee

 

 

Miami, Florida February 1, 2007 - On April 9th, 2004 Plaintiff Joshua Szentpaly, 21 while driving his motorcyle, was hit by a Chicken Kitchen delivery car, owned and operated by Juan Carlos Lacroix.  Lacroix, an employee of the Chicken Kitchen Franchise located at 11425 SW 40th Street, Miami, failed to stop at a stop sign and hit Szentpaly, causing severe neurological damage and the loss of his right arm.

 

While the negligence of the driver was clear, a battle ensued over who was responsible – the National Franchisor (Chicken Kitchen USA, LLC) or the Local Franchisee. Chicken Kitchen USA, LLC claimed its franchisee was an independent contractor and therefore was not responsible for their acts and omissions.  After a three day jury trial in Novemeber 2006 before Judge Bob Scola, the Jury disagreed and found that Chicken Kitchen USA was legally responsible for the acts and omissions of its franchisee, because it controlled or had the right to control the day to day business activities of its franchisee pursuant to its franchise agreement and operating manual.  “Winning this issue was important,” said Ervin A. Gonzalez, Attorney for the Plaintiff.  “We needed to show that accountability and responsibility come with control, policy and making money.  The Franchisor wanted to dodge their responsibilities.  The jury decided that was wrong.”  The jury decision paved the way for another jury trial to decide the catastrophic injury case.

 

In January 2007, an appellate court denied the defendant’s writ of mandamous requesting the trial court to take the case off of the trial docket.  The decision prompted the defendant to tender the policy limits, resulting in a $2 Million settlement.

 

The case was tried in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court before a 6 person jury with one alternate.The Plaintiff’s case was handled by Ervin A. Gonzalez.  The Chicken Kitchen USA, LLC was represented by Frank Alloca and Bill Davis.




$60.9 Million - Brain Dead Baby - Medical Malpractice



Federal Judge Awards $60.9 Million to Parents of 

Baby Born Brain Dead At U.S. Naval Hospital

 

- U.S. Government Found Guilty of Medical Malpractice -

 

Miami, Florida, November 25, 2005 Federal Judge Jose A. Gonzalez ruled from the bench on November 23, 2005, the day before Thanksgiving, finding Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida guilty of medical negligence in the delivery of Kevin Bravo Rodriguez.  Judge Gonzalez awarded Kevin and his parents, Raiza Bravo and United States Navy Serviceman Oscar Rodriguez, $60.9 Million in damages – the highest award in a Federal Tort Claims Act.

In the morning of June 10, 2003 Raiza Bravo reported to the Navy Hospital of Jacksonville for a previously scheduled induction and delivery of her baby, who was healthy but post term.  Bravo’s water broke at approximately 4:00pm in the afternoon and exhibited meconium, a sign of fetal distress.  Throughout the afternoon and evening hours, the meconium worsened and by 3:00 am, June 11th the baby’s heart rate began to decelerate.  Notwithstanding, nurses and doctors at the US Navy hospital continued to monitor Raiza and treat the birth as if no risk existed.  By 4:40am, Raiza began a temperature of 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit and the fetal decelerations continued.  Despite what experts testified to as “blatant evidence of fetal distress”, the nurses and doctors proceeded with the vaginal birth.    At 7:30 am the hospital shift changed and a new obstetrician and nursing staff took over.  The obstetrician was told that everything was normal and did not review any of the medical records.  He proceeded with the vaginal birth.  Throughout the morning the decelerations increased, the meconium thickened, and the baby was trapped in the birth canal.  Nevertheless, by 12:00 pm Raiza was told to “push” in an attempt to deliver her baby vaginally. 

Nearly 29 hours after Raiza had entered the hospital, the baby’s heart rate crashed – indicating that he was dead.  The doctors rushed to deliver the baby via cesarean section, but they were too late.  Baby Kevin was blue, had no heart rate and was not breathing.  After 15 minutes of CPR and 3 epinephrine injections, doctors were able to resuscitate him.  Kevin, however, had been without oxygen for too long and was brain dead.  “The doctor’s were egregiously negligent,” said Ervin A. Gonzalez, attorney for the family. “This is like a life guard watching a drowning victim flailing his arms, gasping for air, and waiting until he’s at the bottom of the ocean to go save him.  It’s too late.” 

Kevin is now two years old, but as a result of the medical negligence, he can not speak, hear, see, swallow, or move – but he can feel pain.  Kevin requires 24 hours of care.  During the two week bench trial, Oscar Rodriguez testified that he would give his life for his son.  The next day, he was deployed to Iraq to serve his country.  News of the Judge’s ruling was conveyed to him via email.  “This is a very sad case and an important one”, said Gonzalez.  “A Federal Judge, not a jury, examined this case and found that pain and suffering is priceless, but an award for pain and suffering is the only way to compensate victims.”

                                                                        ###




$1.5 Million - Breach of Contract

K-Mart Distributor Found Guilty of Breach of Contract

Jury Awards $1.5 Million to Makers of Martha Stewart Towels

Miami, Florida, October 6, 2005  A Miami jury awarded FABRICA DE TEJIDOS LA BELLOTA, S.A. (La Bellota), $1.5 million in damages for breach of contract.  The jury found that Body Rags, a distributor of K-Mart, had breached its contract with La Bellota when they ordered bath towels for distribution and failed to pay for the goods.

The Verdict will allow La Bellota to recover about $1.5 million, including interest, for the Martha Stewart label towels that were ordered and delivered to Body Rags for sale at K-Mart stores throughout the nation. La Bellota sued for breach of contract for non-payment, while Body Rags defended based on the basis that the goods delivered were nonconforming. Body Rags counterclaimed against La Bellota for breach of warranty on a theory that the towels did not pass the shrinkage test or the colorfastness test.  The jury disagreed and awarded La Bellota the entire amount it sought while finding against Body Rags on its counter- claim.  "I am very happy that the jury did the right thing”, said Ervin A. Gonzalez, attorney for La Bellota. “La Bellota made the towels and delivered them to Body Rags, who kept the towels, sold them for profit to K-Mart, and failed to pay my client for the goods.  That’s just wrong."

 

The case was held in the Miami Dade County Circuit Court before Judge Fredrika Smith. The case was argued from September 25 through September 30, 2005. The Jury deliberated for about 2 hours. Ervin A. Gonzalez and Patrick Montoya represented the Plaintiff, La Bellota. Carlos Lehrman and Jody Lehrman represented the Defendant Body Rags.




$65.1 Million Wrongful Death - Eller Media

Eller Media Found Negligent

For Immediate Release

 

Jury Awards $65.1 Million to Father of 12 Year Old Boy Who Was Electrocuted at a Bus Shelter

- Eller Media Found Guilty of Negligence -

 

Miami, Florida, June 24, 2005 A Miami jury awarded Jorge Cabrera, $65.1 million in punitive and compensatory damages for the death of his son, Jorgie Luis Cabrera. The jury found that the death was caused by shoddy electrical work that led to the electrocution and death of the young 6th grader.

In October 1998, Jorgie Cabrera was walking to his father’s house when a severe rainstorm broke out.  Jorgie sought shelter at a nearby bus shelter that was lit.  When Jorgie failed to show up, Jorgie’s family began searching for him.  He was found dead the next morning, face down, covered with ants, and burnt. 

Ervin A. Gonzalez and Bob Martinez, lawyers for Jorgie Cabrera, argued that Eller Media Corp, owned by Clear Channel Communications, was responsible for his death. During the 9 week trial, Gonzalez and Martinez showed the jury evidence of shoddy electrical work done by an unlicensed Eller Media electrician.  The evidence included a lack of bonding and fuses, an improperly installed transformer and grounding rounds, and faulty wiring.  “They created a death trap and they knew it”, said Ervin A. Gonzalez.  “Eller media knew they were hiring unlicensed electricians and failed to supervise their work.  Had they done so, they would have seen the improperly installed materials and the missing fuses that were the difference between life and death for Jorgie.”

Eller Media’s lawyers argued that lightning, not shoddy electrical wiring, were the cause of death.  The jury disagreed and awarded $4.1 million in compensatory damages and $61 million in punitive damages. “In a perfect world, people do the right thing for the right reason,” said Gonzalez.  “Unfortunately, it’s not perfect, but it helps to have a legal system that allows for punitive damages, which ultimately sends a message and makes big corporations do the right thing.”  Eller Media is worth $458 million, an amount that the jury took into consideration when awarding damages.

                                                                        ###

  About Ervin A. Gonzalez - Ervin A. Gonzalez is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law and Business Litigation by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy.  Mr. Gonzalez is currently on the Board of Governors for The Florida Bar and a member of the National Board of Trustees of

The National Institute of Trial Advocacy.  He is past President of The Dade County Bar Association and has also served as President of the Dade County Trial Lawyers Association. He is an adjunct professor at The University of Miami School of Law.  His areas of expertise include catastrophic injuries, wrongful death, medical malpractice, aviation accidents, trucking accidents and class action litigation.

 




$4.2 Million: Obstetrical Malpractice/Breach of Contract



Jury Awards $4.2 Million To The Parents of a Baby That Was Born Brain Dead Due To The Negligence and Breach of Contract  of Obstetricians

 

Miami, Florida, February 16, 2004 – A Miami jury awarded Gayle and Jorge Guerra, parents of Veronica Guerra, $4.2 Million in damages against Dr. Lourdes Ramon and Dr. Luis Fernandez Rocha for obstetrical malpractice and breach of contract, respectively, which resulted in the brain damage and later death of their newborn baby.

           

Gayle Guerra had major life threatening complications and hemorrhaging during her previous pregnancy, which resulted in concern for her safety during the delivery of their second child, Veronica.  This concern led the Guerra’s to secure that Dr. Luis Fernandez-Rocha, a veteran doctor with more than 30 years of experience who had delivered their first baby, be the attending physician at the time of delivery, and not Dr. Lourdes Ramon, an associate of the practice who had 2 ½ years of experience.  The Guerras were specific in the exclusion of Dr. Ramon because she had recently demonstrated questionable care in the delivery of Jorge’s nephew.  The Guerras were assured by Dr. Fernandez-Rocha that he would be there at the time of delivery, even if he were not on call.  Satisfied by his promise, the Guerras continued obstetrical care at the practice.

           

On February 1, 1996, Gayle Guerra entered into labor and called Fernandez-Rocha, only to find that he was out of town.   Distraught and uncertain as to whom would be delivering their baby, Gayle and Jorge headed for the hospital.  Awaiting them was Dr. Ramon, the one physician they had asked not to deliver their baby. 

           

Gayle was admitted to Mercy Hospital at 8:50 pm.  Her labor progressed normally and Veronica showed good signs of being a healthy, active baby.  Some time around 1:00 a.m. on the morning of February 2, 1996 the fetal heart tracing began to show decelerations, which are signs of fetal distress.  For approximately one hour, Veronica’s tracings grew more and more frequent, with deeper decelerations that were lasting for longer periods of time.  Dr. Ramon remained in the delivery room watching the tracings, yet took no action to deliver Veronica, or prepare an anesthesiologist in case of an emergency cesarean section.  At 2:50 am, after the baby Veronica had suffered eighty-six decelerations, more than forty of which were significant indications of imminent danger, the baby’s heart went into severe bradycardia and Dr. Ramon called an emergency cesarean section.  When she summoned the anesthesiologist on call he advised her that he currently had a patient under a surgical dose of anesthesia and he could not leave her.  Another anesthesiologist was located.  He initiated anesthesia for Gayle Guerra at 3:05, 15 minutes after Dr. Ramon called for the emergency caesarean section.  Veronica was delivered at 3:07 a.m.  She had no heart rate, no respirations, poor color, no muscle tone, and no reflexes.

       

“This kind of negligence should not be tolerated,” said Ervin A. Gonzalez, attorney for the Guerra family. “A doctor is supposed to secure the safety of the patient and administer care before it’s too late.  Imagine a Life Guard watching a child wave her arms in distress, go under water, come back up, wave her arms in distress again and then wait until the child finally goes under water for the last time before he finally jumps in the water to save her.  That’s ridiculous and that’s exactly what Dr. Ramon did.  She ignored the signs of distress and waited until it was too late to save baby Veronica”.

           

During the trial, experts testified that the standard of care required a cesarean section at 2:00 a.m., which would have resulted in the delivery of a healthy baby.   The defense’s own expert admitted that had Veronica been born even a few minutes earlier, the time that it took to find an alternate anesthesiologist, that the Guerras would have been celebrating their daughter’s 8th birthday that week.

 

“This is also a case of a breach of contract,” said Gonzalez. “Clearly, experience was the difference between life and death for baby Veronica.  Had Dr. Fernandez-Rocha kept his word and delivered her, Veronica would be here with us today”.  Veronica Guerra was transferred to Miami Children’s Hospital, where she remained on life support.  She lived 11 days and died on February 13, 1996, exactly 8 years to the date of the verdict against Dr. Lourdes Ramon for medical malpractice, and Dr. Luis Fernandez-Rocha for breaching his agreement with the Guerras to deliver their baby.




$100 Million Settlement - Menorah Garden Funeral Homes

$100 Million Settlement - Menorah Garden

World’s Largest Funeral Chain To Pay About $100 Million to Jewish Families

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida December 5, 2003 – Hours before jury selection was to begin in the case of Colonel Hyman Cohen, Houston based funeral chain Service Corporation International (SCI) agreed to pay about $100 million to Jewish families whose loved ones’ remains were desecrated and misplaced at two of its cemeteries in South Florida.

Allegations of wrongdoings surfaced on December 19, 2001 when a class-action lawsuit was filed by relatives who accused the world’s largest funeral operator of desecrating Jewish cemetery sites, misplacing bodies, overselling plots and removing bodies from their burial sites at two of its Broward and Palm Beach Menorah Gardens Cemeteries.

SCI denied such claims, but employees admitted to being instructed to move headstones and dig up burial vaults and caskets to make room for other bodies. On April 17, 2002, a twenty-member search team, which included Palm Beach County’s medical examiner, arrived at Menorah Gardens & Funeral Chapels with a search warrant and a backhoe to investigate the allegations. After two days of digging, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agents found human bones from five different bodies in a wooded area near the Menorah Gardens cemetery in West Palm Beach, Florida. One of those bodies was identified as Colonel Hyman Cohen, a decorated war veteran, who chose to be buried in Menorah Gardens, rather than Arlington Cemetery, for religious reasons. It was then that family members learned that the burial site they often visited did not contain Cohen’s body; it contained the body of someone else’s loved one. “Jewish law is very specific as to how death is handled”, said Plaintiff’s attorney Ervin A. Gonzalez. “The members of the class-action chose to have their family members buried in a Jewish cemetery to ensure that the law is followed. This settlement is the first step in righting a wrong in the cases where bodies were desecrated, and guaranteeing those individuals who have purchased burial plots that Jewish law will be followed in the future ”.

 The settlement includes about 750 class members and will outline a process for deciding damages for individual cases, such as Colonel Cohen’s. In addition to the $100 million settlement, SCI will spend millions of dollars fixing existing problems, reorganizing its cemeteries and ensuring that all graves are marked properly. “I’m glad the legal system worked to provide justice for these families. Without it, Colonel Cohen’s bones would probably still be scattered in the woods and hundreds of families would be paying their respects at the wrong grave.” said Gonzalez. “The message should be loud and clear .You can’t hurt consumers and expect to get away with it.”

Ervin A. Gonzalez was co-lead counsel on the case.  He is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law and Business Litigation by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy.  Mr. Gonzalez is an appointed member of the National Board of Trustees of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy. He is currently on the Board of Governors for The Florida Bar and is past President of The Dade County Bar Association. Mr. Gonzalez has also served as President of the Dade County Trial Lawyers Association and is an adjunct professor at The University of Miami School of Law. His areas of expertise include catastrophic injuries, wrongful death, medical malpractice, product liability, aviation accidents, trucking accidents, commercial litigation and class action litigation.




$4.5 Million: Trucking Accident - Death

$4.5 Million: Trucking Accident - Death

A Miami Jury awared Leslie Reid (victim's husband) and Keishan Lewis (victim's daughter) $4.5 Million for the wrongful death of Joan Pauline Bryan, who was ejected from her vehicle when her vehicle was struck by the defendant's Tractor Trailer.

On May 21, 2001, Joan Pauline Bryan was driving eastbound on the Palmetto Expressway in a minivan. Her passengers included her mother, her sister, her nephew, and her niece. While on route to the small Jamaican restaurant which Ms. Bryan's mother operated, the minivan broke down, and Ms. Bryan moved it as far to the right as she could. The minivan came to a complete stop in the moving lane of traffic farthest to the right, near the 27th avenue exit ramp.

The Defendant, Ray Sellars, was driving a tractor trailer (truck cab) owned by him and permanently leased to Defendant SAIA Motor Freight Line, Inc. Sellars was traveling eastbound on the Palmetto Expressway at approximately 7:00 a.m. on a clear, sunny, Saturday morning, in the third lane from the right of the concrete median. An additional thru lane of travel was to his right, which led to the exit ramp for 27th Avenue.

When Sellars approached the 27th Avenue Exit, he was traveling sixty miles per hour, approximately 140 feet behind another eighteen-wheeler. Sellars conceded in deposition that this was an unsafe following distance. Sellars moved to the far right lane to make the 27th Avenue exit, realized that the minivan was disabled in the lane in front of him, and steered left while hitting his brakes to avoid the van. Sellars hit the minivan, slamming it into the guardrail, and ejecting three of the five passengers. Florida Highway Patrol verified that at least two of the three ejected individuals were belted, but their seatbelts offered no protection because the impact was so severe it collapsed their seatbacks and allowed them to be ejected backwards out the cargo door of the van.  Joan Pauline Bryan, who was ejected onto the guardrail, died at the scene.

The jury awarded $2.5 million to Bryan's husband and $2 million to her daughter, Keishan Lewis.  They found Bryan comparatively neglegent and reduced the verdict by 60%.

Ervin A. Gonzalez was lead counsel on the preparation and execution of the case and worked with co-counsel.  He is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law and Business Litigation by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy.  Mr. Gonzalez is an appointed member of the National Board of Trustees of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.  He is currently on the Board of Governors for The Florida Bar and is past President of The Dade County Bar Association.  Mr. Gonzalez has also served as President of the Dade County Trial Lawyers Association and is an adjunct professor at The University of Miami School of Law.  His areas of expertise include catastrophic injuries, wrongful death, medical malpractice, product liability, aviation accidents, trucking accidents, commercial litigation, and class action litigation.

 




$750,000: Personal Injury - Severed Toes

$750,000: Personal Injury - Severed Toes

A Miami Jury awarded 28 year old Christopher Marlowe $750,000 in damages against USAA Insurance after finding the insured driver liable for failing to stop and improperly making a left turn at an intersection, resulting in an accident.

In December of 2000 Christopher Marlowe was driving west on Ponce De Leon Blvd in Coral Gables, FL. As he approached the intersection of Ponce and 42nd Avenue, the defendant, who was travelling east on Ponce, made a left turn on to 42nd avenue, colliding with Marlowe's vehicle. Marlowe suffered a fractured foot and all of his toes were severed, which required various operations over a period of 2 years including fusion of his toes, bone grafts, and the placement of pins and screws to keep his toes in place.

The verdict was reduced by 10% due to comparative negligence.




$1.6 Million: 69-Yr-Old Woman - Injury

$1.6 Million: 69-Yr-Old Woman - Injury

Jury Awards $1.6 Million To 69-Year-Old Woman Injured By A Miami-Dade County Bus

A Miami Jury awarded 69-year-old Norka Laureiro $1.6 million in damages against Miami-Dade County Transit Authority after finding the driver of a county bus liable for improperly running a stop sign and smashing into the side of Laureiro’s van.

On March 25, 1998 Norka Laureiro was driving her school van, carrying elementary schoolchildren, down the intersection of 113th avenue and SW 3rd street in Sweetwater when a Miami-Dade County Transit bus driver ran a stop sign, colliding with the van, ejecting several kids through the van's front windshield and causing the front of the van to cave in. Among the 13 people severely injured was Norka Lauereiro, the owner and driver of the van. Laureiro suffered a fractured eye socket, ankle, and heel, which required various operations over a period of 4 years including an orbital implant in the face, fusion of her ankle and heel, bone grafts and the placement of pins and screws to keep her foot in place. The injuries left Laureiro with disabilities and unable to work and support herself.

“People might view this as a lot of money”, said Ervin A. Gonzalez, attorney for Laureiro “But really, how many of us would allow our faces to be crushed, our bones to be fused and our ability to earn a living taken away for any amount of money. I’m happy that justice was served and I hope that this verdict sends a message to all reckless drivers. There is a price to pay for ruining someone’s life.”




$30.8 Million Verdict - Ford Rollover

$30.8 Million Verdict - Ford Rollover

A Miami Jury awarded 12 year old Mary “Phoebe” Jimenez and her parents Maria Beth and Ramon Philip Jimenez $30.8 million in damages against Ford Motor Company after finding Ford liable for improperly installing the air valve on the right-rear Goodyear tire of the family’s rented E-350 Econoline van.

The Jimenez’s traveled from the Philipines to New Jersey to meet up with relatives and, together, drive down to Orlando to celebrate Phoebe’s 10th birthday. On May 9, 1999, as the 12 member family was leaving Jacksonville on Interstate 95, the right rear tire suddenly exploded, causing the new van to rollover several times. The rollover crushed Phoebe, leaving her partially brain dead, in a vegetative state. The rollover also killed Phoebe’s aunt. “This is an important verdict because it tells Ford that they are accountable for the safety of their passengers and need to pay closer attention to quality control,” said Ervin A. Gonzalez, the family’s attorney. “This didn’t have to happen. Phoebe would have lived her Disney Dream if Ford had taken an extra minute to ensure that the tire valve was properly installed. Due to Ford’s failure to properly install the right rear tire valve, the tire valve tore and the tire began losing air and pressure. Over time and miles traveled, the tire heated up, causing it to explode".

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently issued a report stating that vans, such as the E-350 Econoline, are 3 times more likely to rollover when there are more than 10 passengers in them, requiring special training to drive them. “The Jimenez van had 12 passengers in it. At no time did Ford advise of the need for special training. Unfortunately the Jimenez family paid the price for Ford’s neglect. My concern is that these vans are also being used as school buses and other means of transportation for children, the elderly and large groups”, said Gonzalez.

The Jimenez’s have hope that Phoebe’s condition will improve. “This verdict will never compensate for Phoebe’s losses but it will allow us to afford the doctors and years of therapy that Phoebe will require”, said Ramon Philip Jimenez. “We hope that through hard work, proper care and God’s Grace that Phoebe’s wish will someday come true – to go to Disney World”.

The jury found comparative negligence and reduced the verdict by 50%. Ervin A. Gonzalez was co-lead counsel on the case.




$2.75 Million- Cancer Diagnosis Failure

$2.75 Million- Cancer Diagnosis Failure

A Miami Jury awarded 74 year old David Francisco and his wife $2.75 million in damages against United Healthcare of Florida (formerly known as CAC-Ramsey) and Ears, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist Dr. Jorge De Cardenas for negligence and failure to diagnose tongue cancer.

David Francisco, then in his late 60’s, visited his primary care physician at CAC-Ramsey’s HMO clinic complaining of an abscess on his tongue. Mr. Francisco was then referred for a biopsy to Dr. Jorge De Cardenas, who was under contract with CAC-Ramsey. Francisco was told on more than one occasion by Dr. De Cardenas that a biopsy was not necessary, despite the fact that the abscess was present for over 3 weeks, Mr. Francisco is male, smokes, is over 60 and has a family history of cancer – all warning signs for cancer. Dr. De Cardenas told Mr. Francisco not to worry and return only if the abscess continued to bother him. Mr. Francisco returned several weeks later to Dr. De Cardenas, this time insisting on a biopsy. The result was cancer.

“Doctors at the HMO did not biopsy, even though all the red flags for cancer were there,” said Ervin A. Gonzalez, Francisco’s attorney. “I am concerned that because of the nature of the quota contracts between HMO clinics like this one and doctors, patients are not provided with proper care. I would like to stress to patients to be diligent about seeking proper care when a growth is detected.”

Due Dr. De Cardenas’ failure to biopsy and diagnose in time, Mr. Francisco had to have approximately 75% of his tongue removed and was given a 3 to 5 year life expectancy. Skin was taken from his arm to reconstruct his tongue, and from his thigh to replace the skin on the arm. “Had the ENT doctor ordered a biopsy as was originally recommended, Mr. Francisco would have had minimal surgery and would have not lost his sense of taste and his ability to speak,” added Gonzalez.

The jury agreed that had a biopsy been taken, Francisco’s cancer would have been detected earlier, his treatment would have been less invasive, and his life expectancy would have been normal.




$6.8 Million: Wrongful Death/UM Case

$6.8 Million: Wrongful Death/UM Case

Miami, Florida, July 11, 2000 – A jury awarded $6.8 Million in damages to Irma Alvarez for pain & suffering and other losses that resulted from her husband’s, Eloy Alvarez, death. Irma and Eloy were married for 33 years.

Eloy Alvarez is best remembered as the driver that was pulled out of a fiery tanker trunk that exploded on the 836 Dolphin Expressway near Miami International Airport on August 8, 1997, days after the memorable Fine Air Plane crash.

Eloy Alvarez was traveling westbound on the far right lane of state road 836, transporting gasoline in a tractor-trailer owned by his employer, Floval Oil Corporation, when a vehicle traveling on the far left, drove across three lanes of traffic and cut off Mr. Alvarez. Mr. Alvarez maneuvered to avoid striking the car, and in doing so lost control of the trailer, causing it to roll over and explode. The vehicle that caused the accident fled the scene. Two motorists who saw the explosion pulled Mr. Alvarez out of the truck. Mr. Alvarez suffered third degree burns to 49 percent of his body and remained in intensive care for 33 days before succumbing to multi-system organ failure. On September 10, 1997 at 3:15 p.m., Eloy Alvarez died.

Floval Oil Corporation provided Mr. Alvarez with insurance, which included $1 Million in uninsured motorist coverage. The insurance company, Ranger Insurance, offered less than $400,000 to Irma Alvarez and her disabled son. They claimed that there was not enough proof that another vehicle caused the crash and that the real negligence was on the part of the Florida Department of Transportation for designing defective highways and Mr. Alvarez for improper steering.

“The defendant was clearly trying to dodge responsibily”, said Ervin A. Gonzalez, attorney for Irma Alavarez. “When you pay for uninsured motorist protection, you expect your insurance company to honor the claim. We provided 4 eyewitnesses that saw a car cause the crash. That should have been enough proof. The jury agreed, finding Ranger Insurance 100% negligent”, said Gonzalez.




$5.2 Million: Class Action Construction

$5.2 Million: Class Action Construction

Representing the homeowners of The Villages of Palm Bay, a Dade County subdivision that includes more than 100 homes, Ervin A. Gonzalez obtained a verdict of $ 5 million against Tripp Construction, Inc., and Southwin, Inc. In building the homes, companies used substandard workmanship and materials that violated Florida building code requirements. Both Tripp and Southwin, as the construction company and seller/developer, respectively, failed to fulfill their legal obligations to home buyers.

"The defects in the construction, workmanship, and materials were among the worst ever seen," Mr. Gonzalez said. "Each house had the same type of damage." Therefore, when Gonzalez originally filed suit, the allegations were that the defects, damages, and the wrongful conduct of the defendants were typical to each and every homeowner, making them members of the same class action.

"Homes in the Florida City-based subdivision were not properly anchored to their foundations", Mr. Gonzalez said. Trusses were braced improperly, truss anchors were not correctly installed, and tin caps were not used properly. Other building code violations included improprieties in such installations as flashing, metal drips at roof eaves, duct supports and straps. The defendants also failed to use proper backing board for tile, causing tiles to fall off the wall in many cases.

Because of these violations, residents of the Villages of Palm Bay suffered losses in property value as well as numerous out-of-pocket expenses to repair the numerous defects in, and damage to their homes.

"The defendants had a statutory duty to build those homes in compliance with the Florida's minimum building codes, and they did not", Mr. Gonzalez said.

The jury agreed and entered a verdict of $5,237,893 to the homeowners.




$5 Million Settlement: Wrongful Death

$5 Million Settlement: Wrongful Death

In an especially tragic case, Ervin A. Gonzalez obtained a five million dollar settlement in a suit against the Michigan-based trucking company, Reliable Carriers, and others, whose negligence caused the death of 19-year old Ianpeter Opitz, a gifted young man looking forward to a career in medicine.

A pre-med student at Florida International University in Miami, he was also an accomplished concert violinist and a member of the Greater Miami Youth Symphony. He was a competitive swimmer who won numerous awards and served on several Miami-based swim teams. He wrote poetry, was a member of the National Honor Society, the National Beta Club, and was the recipient of the President's Academic Fitness Award in 1990.

Ianpeter Opitz never got to realize his dream of a medical career. On March 11, 1995, he and two of his friends were riding in a Volkswagen. The teenaged Opitz was sitting in the front passenger seat. One friend was driving and another was sitting in back when the driver was forced to swerve to avoid a tractor-trailer rig parked illegally in a lane reserved for traffic on South Miami Avenue.

In the dark, and while maneuvering a split-second attempt to avoid a collision with the tractor-trailer, the driver did not see the 16-foot metal loading ramp, elevated approximately four feet from ground level, was extending from the rear of the rig. Unfortunately the front right side of the Volkswagen slammed into the ramp, and Ianpeter Opitz was killed.

The tragedy was caused by gross negligence, Gonzalez filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Opitz family against the owner of the tractor trailer, Reliable Holdings, the drivers, Raymond and Paula Balestra of Balestra Transportation, who also owned the rig, and Reliable Carriers, the company who employed the Balestras.

On the night of the fatal accident, the Balestras had parked to load a minivan which had been on display during a "Carnival Miami" sponsors' party. The defendants extended the ramp, but did not place any warning devices in the street to alert drivers that the rig and its ramp were blocking the traffic lane.

"There were no flares, markers, flashing lights, or reflective triangles; nothing to warn on-coming drivers." "When the ramp was extended, the tail lights and brake lights were disconnected, so there were no red lights visible to approaching traffic, and the ramp itself had no lights or reflectors," says Mr. Gonzalez.

The case was settled before trial for $ 5 million.




$725,000:Defective Door/Amputated Finger

$725,000:Defective Door/Amputated Finger

Four years after a Palm Beach County toddler lost her finger due to a defective rear door hinge in a ford Explorer, a Palm Beach County judge ordered ford Motor Company to pay $725,000 in damages to her in a case tried by Ervin A. Gonzalez.

In 1995, a two-year-old girl was standing in the open door well of the front passenger seat of the new Ford Explorer her family had leased from a Delray Beach dealership. When the back door was opened, her little finger was caught and severed by the exposed lower hinge assembly of the right rear door.

At trial, Mr. Gonzalez proved that Ford Motor Company was negligent in failing to exercise reasonable care in the manufacture, design, and testing of the Ford Explorer and its rear door hinge.

"The verdict should go a long way in promoting safety," said Mr. Gonzalez




$447,000:Cityof Miami Contract Violation

$447,000:City of Miami Contract Violation

When the City of Miami changed its job promotion process for police officers seeking to advance to the rank of sergeant in 1994, they changed the way the officers were assessed. The new testing procedure included a defective oral board assessment that failed to adequately measure the job skills of the candidates.

On behalf of 21 officers affected by the new job promotion process, Ervin A. Gonzalez brough suit against the City of Miami, and won a jury verdict of $447,000 for the police officers as well as the promotions they had been seeking.

Ervin A. Gonzalez argued that the city failed to adhere to the Code of the City of Miami, The City of Miami Charter, and the City of Miami Civil Services rules and regulations as required by their contract with the Fraternal Order of Police.

The contract was violated when the city hired the consulting firm of Morris & McDaniel to create and administer an exam for police officers desiring to become sergeants. The two-part exam included a written test, which weighed 30 percent of the final test score, and an oral test, which weighed 50 percent of the final score. The remaining 20 percent of the overall score was based on officers' seniority.

During the oral exam, officers viewed still photos while listening to an audio-cassette explanation of five specific situations presented in the pictures. Candidates were then required to respond verbally, on videotape, as to how they would handle the situation. A team of 24 assessors, selected and trained by Morris & McDaniel, rated the officers on their responses and demeanor. However, this oral test was inappropriate to determine candidates' qualifications for sergeant rank, said Mr. Gonzalez.

"The exam didn't realistically assess the skills that were required of a police sergeant in Miami, Florida. It was graded by people who were inadequately trained, and may have been unqualified to grade the exam," argued Mr. Gonzalez. It was also impossible for the officers to challenge or verify the qualifications and training of their assessors, because Morris & McDaniel discarded that information.

The jury agreed with Mr. Gonzalez that the officers' rights to be fairly evaluated for job promotion were violated by the use of the flawed examination. In addition to the $447,000.00 verdict, the officers named in the suit were awarded promotions to sergeant status, as well as back pay commensurate with that rank, retroactive to May 1994.




$2.5 Million: Dade County Bus Accident

$2.5 Million: Dade County Bus Accident

After doing her errands for the day, 42-year-old Martha Sosa exited a Dade County transit bus at approximately 6:30 p.m. on the evening of October 27, 1995. As she stepped off the bus, she noticed that her shoe was untied. She put her foot up onto the bus stop bench and leaned over to tie her shoe, lost her balance and fell under the bus.

Two independent eye-witnesses saw the Metro bus run over Ms. Sosa and leave the scene of the accident. The bus driver was never identified.

This accident should never have happened. As Ervin A. Gonzalez told the jury during the trial this year, every Dade County bus has mirrors, which when positioned and viewed correctly, show if there is anyone who could be injured by the bus. Bus drivers are required by the national safety standards, which Dade County adopts and uses to train their drivers, to check for dangerous situations before moving the bus.

During the five-day trial, Mr. Gonzalez showed films produced by the National Safety Council which demonstrate clearly when and how bus drivers must use their mirrors. These are the very same films Dade County uses to train its bus drivers.

On the day that Ms. Sosa fell under the bus, the driver failed to check properly to see that no one was in danger of being run over or hit by the bus. When the bus began to move, Ms. Sosa's arm still was under the bus. The bus ran over her arm, stripping the muscle and flesh from the mid-shoulder to her wrist.

Following the accident, Ms. Sosa, a single mother of a teenager, was in the hospital for a month and in therapy for six months. After six surgeries, and still facing reconstructive surgery, she suffers permanent injuries to her arm. Although her arm function has gradually returned, she lacks fine motor skills.

During the first part of the trial, Mr. Gonzalez asked the jury to find Dade County liable. The jury found the County 65 percent liable and Ms. Sosa 35 percent liable. The jury then awarded damages of $2.576 million.




$1 Million: Insurance Co./Bad Faith

$1 Million: Insurance Co./Bad Faith

An elderly Cuban couple who have lived in America for 15 years each wanted to be sure the other was taken care of if something should happen to one of them. Their daughter was an insurance agent, so 70-year-old Enrique Otero and 67-year-old Hilda Otero asked her to help them obtain a life insurance policy to take care of each other.

Mr. Otero, a butcher at Sedano's supermarket, and Mrs. Otero, a seamstress, had established a good life for themselves without learning English.

Their daughter contacted the Midland Insurance Company, and prepared and sent in applications on her parents' behalf.

The Oteros contacted Ervin A. Gonzalez and told him that the Midland Insurance Company representative suspected that the couple might not speak English when he saw that Mr. Otero was born in Cuba and therefore refused to sell them a policy.

By refusing to accept the application simply because the Oteros spoke only Spanish, the company acted in "Bad Faith."

Either their daughter or a bi-lingual agent could have explained the Midland policy to them.

Two years before the Oteros applied for their insurance, then Florida Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher issued an informational bulletin notifying all insurance companies doing business in Florida that a refusal to issue insurance based upon an inability to speak English was in violation of Florida's Insurance Bad Faith Statute.

During the six-day trial, which was covered extensively by the South Florida media, Mr. Gonzalez played the audio tape on which the Midland representative said that it was against their policy to sell insurance to anyone who could not speak English.

The jury awarded each $100,000.00, the amount of the insurance policy the Oteros had wanted to purchase, plus an additional $400,000.00 in mental anguish to each plaintiff. The total award of $ 1 Million sends a clear and compelling message to all insurance companies not to treat non English speaking Floridians unfairly.




$1 Million: Wrongful Death/73 yr. Woman

$1 Million: Wrongful Death/73 yr. Woman

Mrs. Elizabeth Berman was remodeling her kitchen with the help of Floridian Decor, who recommended the selection of a Sub-zero freezer. This 400 pound appliance with a decorative door was purchased at and delivered by Weston & Weston, an appliance company that delivered the freezer to Mrs. Berman's home in 1994.

The delivery of the freezer was handled improperly and proved fatal for Mrs. Berman. It was well-known in the industry that Sub-zero freezers were dangerously unstable if not properly secured. Not only was the decorative panel installed before delivery, completely obliterating the instructions for installation, the freezer [not the panel] was removed from the carton and set up unsecured in Mrs. Berman's kitchen.

Before the freezer was installed, it fell over, fatally crushing Mrs. Berman, who was found by her housekeeper.

The police investigation of Mrs. Berman's death detailed the improper handling of the freezer. When the investigators recreated the accident by standing the freezer upright and opening the door, it took four men to prevent it from falling.

Ervin A. Gonzalez tried the case in late October 1998 with associate Deborah J. Gander. On November 2, the jury awarded $ 1,004,438 to Ms. Berman's sole survivor, her daughter, Bonnie Berman.

During trial, the owner of Weston & Weston testified that the freezer's instability when not properly secured was common knowledge in the appliance industry.

A settlement was reached prior to trial with the manufacturer and distributor.




$1.65 Million: "Whistle Blower" Case

$1.65 Million: "Whistle Blower" Case

In December 1997, the Miami police officer who blew the whistle on quotas that discriminated against African-Americans was finally compensated.

The compensation came in the form of a $ 1.65 million jury verdict after a week-long trial, during Ervin A. Gonzalez presented evidence that Officer Jesus Del Rio was unfairly harassed and demoted in 1994 because he attempted to inform police authorities that other officers were targeting African-Americans in public parks to meet arrest quotas. Beginning in 1990, Officer Del Rio also filed complaints that certain police officers violated department policies, including socializing during working hours. In 1993, Officer Del Rio was interviewed on a Miami TV station about an order that Miami police officers had received not to list certain witnesses on DUI reports, a practice that violates Florida state law.

Instead of receiving positive acknowledgement of his efforts to point out these problems in the Miami Police Department, Officer Del Rio lost promotions and experienced health coverage delays.

The lawsuit named the ranking police department Chief, Assistant Chief, a Major, a Lieutenant, the Civil Service Board and the City of Miami.

According to Mr. Gonzalez, the retaliation against Officer Del Rio was obvious. Before he voiced his objections to discriminatory and unlawful practices, he had been recognized with many commendations for his work as a police officer. After his objections, Officer Del Rio was intentionally issued payroll checks of wildly fluctuating and incorrect amounts that deprived him of his salary.

Eventually, he was demoted to guarding impounded cars, one of the department's lowest assignments.

The verdict sends a loud message to Miami that these practices will not be tolerated and that those who bring the problems to the City's attention deserve a commendation, not retaliation and harassment.




$1.5 Million: Asbestos/Mesothelioma

$1.5 Million: Asbestos/Mesothelioma

During his career as a pipefitter Mr. Crane was continually exposed to Kaylo pipe covering and block insulation manufactured by Owens Corning. In his retirement years, he was an active volunteer with Shriners and enjoyed the outdoors. Then, in 1991, at the age of 67, he died of malignant mesothelioma, caused from his exposure to carcinogenic agents, such as asbestos.

Ervin A. Gonzalez represented his widow in a nine day trial. Mr. Gonzalez was able to prove that Mr. Crane's life ended prematurely, and the jury awarded $1.5 million.













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