Thomas Scolaro and Justin B. Shapiro of Leesfield Scolaro in Miami cinched a $1.575 million settlement for 40-year-old Broward electrician Martin Card, who fell 8 feet from a ladder on a luxury yacht at the River Bend Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale.
The River Bend Marine Center, owned by River Bend Marina Holdings LLC, agreed to pay $750,000 to resolve the personal injury suit, while yacht owner Jorge Mufarech and captain Manuel Hernandez consented to an $825,000 payout.
Card worked for mobile installation company Florida Bow Thrusters, and was hired by Mufarech on Apr. 8, 2014, to do repairs on the 83-foot yacht.
According to Card’s amended complaint filed in August 2016, he would not have endured “severe and permanent injuries” if the River Bend Marina had used the proper ladder. It claimed the marina owned the “unstable” ladder, which its employees placed on a ”wet, sandy gravel surface.”
“The defendants knew that this was a dangerous situation based on their experience in marinas and boating,” Shapiro said.
Though yacht owner Mufarech was not at the scene on April 8, Shapiro and Scolaro contended that he was liable for the incident, as the captain, Hernandez, was an employee acting on his behalf.
To settle a squabble over which defendant set up the ladder on the back of the yacht, Shapiro and Scolaro took depositions from all the marina employees present on the day of Card’s fall.
“We were creative and thorough in terms of making sure everyone with knowledge was deposed,” Shapiro said.
The plaintiff lawyers said the depositions helped the team establish that the defendants acted in concert.
“They both used the ladder and left the ladder behind at some point that morning,” Shapiro said. “We made it impossible for them to claim ignorance on the ladder because they must have used it in order to get onto the yacht that day.”
According to Shapiro, a crucial part of the case was proving there was no other way to board the yacht other than using the ladder.
“Then our client comes along, and he’s not a boat specialist by any means and doesn’t have a lot of experience boarding yachts,” Shapiro said. “The ladder ends up sliding and he ends up plummeting 8 feet to the ground, directly on his left hip.”
Card injured his left sacroiliac joint, which connects the spine to the hips. The damage called for joint fusion surgery under general anesthesia.
“This is an invasive surgery where three nails are bolted into the hip area to fuse that SI joint,” Shapiro explained.
Medical expenses totaled $115,000.
“This accident certainly set him back professionally and financially, as he’s been unable to work as an electrician since,” Shapiro said.
The defense claimed they had no duty to provide access to the vessel, an argument which became central to a bid have he court toss Card’s suit.
Click here to read the defense’s amended answer to the complaint
But the Leesfield Scolaro attorneys won that round.
“Based on our responses that were filed to those motions for summary judgment, we were able to convince (the defendants) that they did not have merit,” Shapiro said.
The defense also presented an argument of comparative fault, claiming that Card should have known the ladder wasn’t safe and should have asked for something more stable.
“We countered that by making the argument that (Card) did not have the level of knowledge, with respect to marinas, boat yards and yachts, that the defendants had,” Shapiro said.
The marina company has since folded, and a new owner now operates the site.
During the litigation, Shapiro and Scolaro presented a ”trusting employee” who “was expected by his employer to board the yacht that day.”
Meanwhile, River Bend’s lawyer, John D. Kallen of the Law Office of John D. Kallen in Miami, said his client “was pleased with the resolution.”
Shapiro credits the outcome of the suit to the plaintiff team’s meticulous approach to reconstructing the day’s events “moment by moment.”
He said, “Leaving no stone unturned can really help with uncovering the entire story without any gaps or missing pieces so that we can prove who’s truly responsible for this kind of event.”
Case: Martin Card v. River Bend Marina Holdings LLC, Manuel Hernandez, Jorge Mufarech
Case No.: 2016 CA 010730
Description: Maritime personal injury
Filing date: June 13, 2016
Settlement date: June 15, 2018
Judge: Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson
Plaintiff attorneys: Thomas Scolaro and Justin Shapiro of Leesfield Scolaro, Miami
Defense attorneys: Joanna Pino and Diego Arredondo of Sioli Alexander Pino, Miami, for Mufarech and Hernandez; and John D. Kallen of John D. Kallen, Miami, for River Bend Marina
Settlement amount: $1,575,000 including $825,000 from Mufarech and Hernandez, and $750,000 from River Bend Marina
Read the settlement releases: