The city of Miami Beach has reached an $190,000 settlement with a motorcyclist and his wife following a reported collision with a parking officer driving a city vehicle.
Emomotimi S. Brisibe, Miami Beach’s senior assistant city attorney, told the Daily Business Review that the settlement was reached following an $850,000 verdict against the city.
Plaintiff Juan Jaime Cacho Abanto claimed he was in a collision on Dec. 2, 2016, with parking enforcement officer Lilliam J. Mena, but the sides disputed whether the two vehicles actually made contact.
Read the complaint:
The city retained appellate counsel following what Brisibe referred to as “a fatal error” by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Pedro Echarte Jr. during trial.
“Ms. Mena was wearing a body camera video on her when the incident happened. She turned it on after she came out of her vehicle after this alleged accident, and there was a video recording that ensued when she put the body camera on,” Brisibe said.
According to the city’s lawyer, Mena told the responding police officer that she “might have” struck Abanto after reversing her car to avoid pedestrians crossing at the intersection of Alton Road and 10th Street. The plaintiff alleged Mena hit his scooter, causing injury to his right knee and shoulder.
“We filed a motion in limine to exclude those statements on the video cam from being played or shown to the jury on the grounds of the accident report privilege,” Brisibe said. “The judge ruled … and denied our motion in limine.”
Accident report privilege shields a motorist from having statements made during an accident investigation used against them at trial.
“The reason for the privilege is to give people the opportunity to speak freely after an accident. … You want people to be free to speak with police officers when they get into accidents,” Brisibe said, adding accident report privilege is also designed to help the government with statistics and record keeping for public safety.
However, Brisibe noted Abanto admitted during a deposition that “there was no contact between the city vehicle and the scooter” despite his complaint alleging both he and his scooter were damaged.
Brisibe believed Mena’s statement ”affected the jury when those statements were allowed in,” leading to the adverse verdict against the city.
Read the full verdict here:
“After the verdict came out we felt that the judge made a fatal error and was wrong,” Brisibe said. The city subsequently retained appellate counsel and had begun the process of filing a notice of appeal before changing direction.
Soon afterward Coral Gables attorney Gary Alan Friedman, counsel for Abanto and his wife, Edith Pilar Cabrera, reached out to Brisibe and the city to discuss the possibility of a settlement.
“The reason why the plaintiffs counsel got in touch with us to talk about a resolution was because they knew there was a strong possibility [the verdict] would be overturned on appeal,” Brisibe said. “Even the plaintiffs recognized the error in terms of [Judge Echarte] allowing those statements to come in.”
Friedman did not reply to requests for comment by deadline.