Winter Park , FL – Dan Cotter of The Maher Law Firm along with Brad
Edwards and Gary M. Farmer, Jr. of Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos
& Lehrman, P.L. in Fort Lauderdale, FL obtained a $24 million dollar
verdict on June 23, 2015, in a wrongful death suit against a Fort Lauderdale
hotel for the death of a hotel guest. Alanna Demella, seven months pregnant
at the time, was killed when a car traveled off of the road and into the
hotel’s poolside cabana she was occupying at the Riverside Hotel
in Fort Lauderdale.
A Broward Circuit Court jury handed down an eight figure verdict in favor
of Alanna Demella’s husband, Michael Demella.
Michael and Alanna Demella were visiting from Massachusetts in March 2012.
The couple checked into the Riverside Hotel and went to the pool. They
had stepped into the cabana restroom moments before the incident.
The driver of the vehicle, Rosa Rivera Kim, was later arrested and in January
2015 and was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison on two counts
of DUI Manslaughter, after it was determined that her blood alcohol level
was .24 – 3 times the legal limit.
Michael Demella filed suit against the Riverside Hotel, claiming that the
hotel was negligent in failing to maintain its property in a reasonably
safe condition by protecting its guest from the known danger that speeding
and distracted drivers posed to hotel guests.
At trial, Cotter and Edwards and their team sought to prove that the hotel
knew of the growing danger and could have done more to protect their guests
against that danger. Demella introduced evidence at trial showing that
the particular cabana was located in a vulnerable spot just off the sharp
curve on the property, with no protection from passing cars. It was also
demonstrated that for years before this tragic accident, hotel management
was aware that cars traveled along this stretch of road at speeds far
in excess of what this section of the road was designed to handle, and
that these drivers posed a serious danger to guests, from which guests
deserved protection. Hotel documents revealed the road was referred to
as a “racetrack”. The hotel could have easily remedied this
dangerous condition by erecting a barrier, or by simply relocating the
cabana to a location near the pool, out of harm’s way.
This verdict is important for two reasons. First, it is verification that
our jury system, in which we all believe so strongly in, works. Second,
the jury recognized the need for safety in the community as well as the
extraordinary value that Alanna Demella brought to her husband. The entire
trial team is proud to have played a role in helping Michael achieve justice
as well as improving the safety of the community.
The Broward County jury returned a verdict of $24 million and assigned
fifteen percent (15%) responsibility against the Riverside Hotel and 85
% to the Rosa Rivera Kim following a six day trial. The net verdict against
the hotel is approximately $3,6000,000.