Christopher L. Marlowe and Michael A. Haggard of the Haggard Law Firm in Coral Gables, and solo practitioner Chelsie M. Lamie negotiated a $2 million pre-suit settlement for the parents of a boy who was sexually abused at 14 by the manager of an apartment complex in Key West.
Police charged 61-year-old Luis Proenza-Lopez with multiple counts of sexual battery against a minor, but he died before the case went to trial. The Carleen A. Oropeza Revocable Trust, which owns the complex, denied any negligence but agreed to pay the settlement provided the family does not bring a claim in future.
According to Marlowe, this was the best possible outcome, saving his clients a long, messy court battle.
“The young man didn’t have to go and tell his story again,” Marlowe said. “And more importantly, he didn’t have to tell it to a skeptical, disbelieving adversary who’s looking to score points to somehow attack his credibility. That’s the last thing you need, someone else casting doubt on the veracity of what happened to you.”
Marlowe, who spent four years prosecuting sexual battery cases in Miami-Dade County, said he’s seen the legal process re-traumatize victims time and again.
Though the case never made it to court, Marlowe’s team investigated it as though preparing for trial. Their team made several trips to Key West, knocked on dozens of doors and came across more people who claimed they were also molested by Proenza-Lopez.
The team also discovered that the alleged abuser had a colorful criminal history, ranging from burglary to aggravated battery, which Marlowe said made him wonder why the apartment complex hired him.
According to Marlowe, negligent security claims against property owners are particularly rife in South Florida.
“The biggest problem I have with rental communities, large or small, is when the owners take too casually how important the good character of their employees is,” Marlowe said. “This is the kind of thing that happens when people’s homes are treated as nothing more than some factsheet on a profit and loss statement.”
Counsel to the owners of the complex, Nanci R. Schanerman of Clyde & Co in Miami, did not respond to request for comment before deadline.
Read the full settlement agreement: