Florida Keys

Tom Culmo, and his co-counsel, Dennis Koltun, a Partner with Koltun & Lazar, P.A., have obtained a $1,000,000 settlement for their client in a wrongful death lawsuit against Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo, Florida.

The case was brought on the theory of premises liability after the deceased lost his balance, causing him to fall while walking down a ramp from his room at the resort to the resort parking lot. The incident happened around 8 a.m. on September 9, 2014, when the man and his wife were on their way to get coffee. He died later that day from the traumatic brain injury he suffered in the incident.

The wife of the deceased victim brought the wrongful death lawsuit. The suit alleged that the ramp on which the decedent fell and died was three times steeper than allowed by both the applicable building code and the American Disabilities Act (ADA). The ramp was also uneven and improperly surfaced.

Gilbert’s Resort defended itself on two theories. First, the resort claimed the ramps were built before the applicable code and ADA went into effect. Second, under oath, an owner stated that even if the ramps were in violation of the code and the ADA, the resort had no knowledge of the violations until this particular incident and therefore should not be held liable.

Not satisfied with that defense, Mr. Culmo and Mr. Koltun conducted an extensive litigation investigation. They discovered that the resort was not being truthful about its lack of knowledge of the dangerous condition. In the year previous to this particular incident, a lawsuit had been filed against the resort that alleged numerous ADA violations. In that previous case, the resort’s own expert examined two other ramps in the resort’s restaurant and determined that they did in fact exceed the steepness requirements of the ADA. This prompted the resort to acknowledge the ramps were in violation of the ADA, and settle the case.

The hotel-to-parking lot ramp upon which the decedent in this case fell, was in far worse condition than the ramp that violated the ADA standards in the case just one year before this unfortunate incident occurred. In fact, the owner who, in this case, in sworn testimony, claimed the resort had no prior knowledge of any ramp problems, had actually signed the previous settlement agreement.

Mr. Culmo subpoenaed the documents from the defendant’s prior ADA attorney and ADA expert. The documents proved the resort was aware of the dangerous condition of the ramps being three times too steep to meet ADA. When faced with the irrefutable evidence that the resort did have knowledge of the dangerous condition and failed to correct it, the resort settled the case for its policy limits of $1 million.

“It is unfortunate that our client lost her husband due to a dangerous condition that the defendant clearly knew about and failed to eliminate,” said Mr. Culmo. This result reinforces the need to hold businesses accountable for deliberately choosing to put profits over customer safety.”

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