October 15, 2013

Universal Orlando Roller Coaster Glitch Strands Patrons, Institutes Emergency Evacuation


Last Wednesday, 12 people were stranded atop Universal Orlando's Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster after a "tech glitch" caused the ride to come to a halt. The park patrons were stalled in a vertical position for nearly three hours while the situation was resolved and Orlando firefighters were called in to rescue them. Luckily, no passenger was seriously injured. One person was taken to the hospital after complaining of neck pain.

This "tech glitch" was not the first for the 17-story-tall ride. At its inception, construction delays put off the grand opening of the ride for two months, and at one point, crews had to replace the mechanism responsible for preventing the coaster from sliding backward during its initial ascent up a 90-degree lift hill. Just over a year later, the ride was shut down for a month to perform "undisclosed maintenance" after warnings from the rides' manufacturer about potential structural flaws with holding the trains together. Just this past summer, Universal shut down the ride a third time to perform inspections after a minor malfunction.

Additionally, the ride closed again briefly on Thursday afternoon for undisclosed reasons, though Universal claims the shutdown was unrelated to Wednesday's issue.

Those who choose to participate in theme park activities assume a certain level of risk in doing so, but this does not exempt the park from the responsibility of ensuring the safety of its rides. Personal injury attorney John E. Leighton takes this responsibility very seriously, and adamantly defends those adversely affected by the negligence of others. Mr. Leighton has won many cases in the Resort Torts category, including a $1.8 million settlement for the family of a 15 year-old girl who was killed in a resort recreation accident and an $850,000 settlement for a tourist who suffered an injury after slipping and falling on the walkway outside a major resort hotel.

You can read more on the situation at Universal Orlando here - http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-10-10/business/os-riders-stuck-universal-coaster-20131010_1_hollywood-rip-ride-rockit-roller-coaster-universal-orlando.

September 11, 2013

Negligent Premises Security Litigation Seminar: Sex, Drugs & Violence

On October 17, Leighton Law will be hosting its annual Sex, Drugs & Violence seminar, an informative and interactive event that will cover the law of inadequate security litigation in Florida, tactics and strategies in investigating, litigating and trying premises security cases, as well as relevant statutes, codes, ordinances and Florida's new Daubert law.

William Bopp, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus of Criminology, will be the event's guest speaker, and he and John Elliott Leighton will share insights and strategies cultivated from nearly 30 years of litigating these fascinating cases Attendees of the event will receive an expected 4 hours of CLE credits including ethics credit. The event will take place at the Banker's Club, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. To register, visit www.LeightonLaw.com. Registration fee, which includes continental breakfast, is $85.00.

Becoming an Event Sponsor
Not only will sponsors of this seminar have the opportunity to reach a prestigious group of high profile attorneys, but they will also have the ability to reach an audience beyond the symposium itself, as Leighton Law has partnered with the Daily Business Review, where sponsors will be featured in advertising, e-flyers, website and an eight page post-seminar insert in the Daily Business Review. Reach more than 40,000 prominent readers throughout South Florida by becoming a sponsor today. For more information, visit www.LeightonLaw.com.

August 29, 2013

John Leighton Named to The Best Lawyers in America 2014

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John E. Leighton Named To The Best Lawyers In America For 7th Consecutive Year

John Elliott Leighton has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2014, the seventh year in a row he has been recognized for his outstanding work in the practice areas of Personal Injury Litigation and Product Liability Litigation. Best Lawyers is regarded by both the industry and the public as the most credible guide to legal excellence in United States.

Mr. Leighton is Managing Partner at Leighton Law, and is a Florida Bar board certified civil trial lawyer with 28 years of experience in litigating and trying complex and catastrophic cases in all state and federal courts, particularly personal injury and wrongful death; medical malpractice; violent crime/negligent premises security; trucking and motor vehicle crash; nursing home neglect; product liability; aviation disaster; cruise ship and maritime; commercial litigation; legal malpractice and other civil cases. With offices in Miami and Orlando, Leighton Law represents individuals who have been seriously injured or have lost loved ones due to the negligence of others.

Mr. Leighton is the author of Litigating Premises Security Cases, a two-volume book published by Thomson-West. It is a comprehensive text on investigating, preparing, litigating and trying inadequate security cases and representing crime victims. He is a frequent lecturer at national legal programs including Florida Bar CLE courses, and has spoken and taught at seminars, colleges and conventions in over a dozen states. Mr. Leighton has been elected Chairman of The Academy of Trial Advocacy, a national invitation-only association of some of the nation's leading catastrophic injury trial lawyers.

Selection for Best Lawyers is based on a rigorous, peer-review survey comprised of more than four million confidential evaluations by top attorneys in the country. Best Lawyers has been described by The American Lawyer as "the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice," and it continues to be one of the most visible and targeted peer review publications in the legal profession through its partnerships with top-tier media outlets including: The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and over 85 regional magazines and international newspapers.

For more information on John Leighton and his practice areas, please visit www.leightonlaw.com.

August 7, 2013

Your Cruise Vacation May Be Much More Adventurous Than You Anticipated: Major Cruise Lines Admit Faults With Cruise Safety

Throughout the past 16 months, case after case concerning cruise ship safety has been brought to public attention. Finally, lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate announced legislation on Tuesday that would require information about reported crimes to be made available to the public. To appease the courts and the public, the three largest cruise lines, all based in Miami, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Corp. and Norwegian Cruise Line, have voluntarily agreed to publish these reports.

These reports will include categories required by the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, concerning sexual assault, theft greater than $10,000, tampering with the vessel, assault with serious injuries, kidnapping, missing U.S. nationals, and suspicious death or homicide. The crime reports are a major step forward for the credibility of cruise lines and will allow the public to make educated decisions when choosing their vacation vessel.

Personal injury attorney John Leighton has a passion for representing individuals who have been seriously injured due to the negligence of others, and has had a front row view of many of the cruise catastrophes that have occurred. Mr. Leighton has won several cases regarding negligence on cruises, including one in which a passenger was struck when a mishandled mooring line snapped and crashed through a window, causing injuries that the cruise line denied. He has also obtained recoveries for passengers who have been injured in falls, sexual assaults and shore excursions gone awry. His experience in representing seriously injured vacationers has resulted in his being named a Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer for several years in a row.

The hope is that the new changes, brought about as a result of continued litigation against the major cruise lines, will result in a safer cruise environment. People vacationing forget that these are floating cities run by corporations with one motive: profit. They hire from foreign nations for which they do not need to comply with American labor standards and cut corners whenever they can. As a result tragedy sometimes occurs.

You can read more regarding this new legislation here - http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/24/3519723/in-senate-grilling-cruise-leaders.html.


July 3, 2013

The Parasailing Carnage Continues: Two Teens in Critical Condition After Parasailing Accident in Panama City

Two 17 year-olds from Indiana are in critical condition today after their parasail crashed in a Panama City Beach parking lot. The Bay County Sheriff's Office reports that a parasail had been attached to a boat Monday afternoon when the line broke, with one victim being rescued after dropping into the Gulf of Mexico and two other people continuing on until the parasail crashed into a nearby parking lot.

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From FoxNews.com

Described as "gruesome" by one witness, the teens smashed into a building, carried on to a power line and crashed into several cars inside the parking lot. The victims both went limp after hitting the side of the condo and only one was conscious when rescuers arrived, the report said.

This is yet another example of why John Leighton has been working diligently for years to spearhead legislation that will bring regulation to this rogue industry. This latest case once again raises the question - just how many people will have to be critically injured or even die before changes are made?

"How high does the body count have to get before the Florida Legislature will actually pass one of the bills on parasailing safety?" asks Leighton following this tragedy. "For the past six years there have been bills to prevent this exact event, and each year the bills die."

Leighton has been working with Shannon Kraus, mother of two teens who were victimized in an almost identical catastrophe in 2007 off of Pompano Beach.

Kraus is the mother of 15-year-old Amber May White. In 2007 Leighton represented this family and brought a negligence lawsuit against the parasail operators and the resort where Amber May was killed. Amber May died while parasailing from head trauma along with internal injuries, sustained when she crashed into a building when the parasail on which she was riding snapped. Amber's sister Crystal suffered head injuries in this tragedy. Leighton and Kraus' efforts have resulted in a bill which they hope will finally become a law this year.

You can read more on the accident here - http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/07/02/2-teens-in-critical-condition-after-parasailing-accident-in-panama-city-florida/

June 24, 2013

Negligent Vacation Packaging Against Timeshare Promoter - Florida Supreme Court Allows Case Sent to Mexico to be Brought in Miami


Reversing an appellate court which had upheld a motion to transfer the case to Mexico, Florida's Supreme Court last week held that a case brought against a resort company which marketed to tourists to promote and sell timeshares at a resort in Mexico should not be dismissed.

In Cortez v. Palace Resorts, a woman was lured to a Mexican resort in an attempt to sell her a timeshare. As part of that inducement, the resort gave her a massage. During the massage, the masseuse sexually assaulted Cortez.

Cortez brought her case in Miami against three Florida businesses that all operated out of Miami. She claimed that the acts giving rise to her case, which included negligent vacation packaging, occurred in Miami. The trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens, and Florida's Third District Court of Appeal affirmed. In a dissent by Judge Rothenberg, she wrote that "The Florida defendants, with a straight face, claim that [Mexico] is a more convenient forum to litigate a United States Citizen's negligent vacation packaging claim against them, although Miami is where their corporate headquarters is located..." The dissent went on to enumerate other factors in favor of keeping the case in Florida.

Cortez sought review by Florida's Supreme Court, which on June 20, 2013 reversed the 3rd District and held that the trial court erred in dismissing the case. Finding that the 3rd District incorrectly applied the Kinney test [for forum non conveniens], and also ruled that the trial court erred in failing to give a strong presumption against disturbing the plaintiff's choice of forum because she was a California resident. The Supreme Court held that the plaintiff's residency in another state did not mitigate her right to have the strong presumption in her favor. The Supreme Court adopted much of the dissenting opinion.

According to the Court, Miami is the operational, managerial and marketing center for the entire Palace Resorts Group and is a proper place for the claims being asserted.

Cortez v. Palace Resorts, SC11-1908, June 20, 2013, further clarifies the Court's prior holding in Kinney System v. Continental Insurance, 674 So.2d 86 (Fla. 1996), which was the Supreme Court's prior pronouncement on the issue of forum non conveniens.

June 11, 2013

John Leighton Named 2013 Top 100 Florida Super Lawyer

John Leighton, managing partner of Leighton Law and Board Certified Civil Trial Specialist, has been named a Top 100 Florida Super Lawyer for 2013 by Super Lawyers Magazine.

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

Super Lawyers Magazine features the list and profiles of selected attorneys and is distributed to attorneys in the state or region and the ABA-accredited law school libraries.

In the United States, Super Lawyers Magazine is published in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., reaching more than 13 million readers.


April 25, 2013

John Leighton Speaks at Attorney At Law Networking Event

Featured on the cover of the most recent Attorney At Law Magazine, John Leighton was invited to speak to a group of Miami-based lawyers and legal professionals at a networking event hosted by the publication. The event took place at Machiya, a new Japanese restaurant located in the heart of Midtown, on the evening of April 24.

Attorney At Law Magazine is a comprehensive resource for the legal community in South Florida, providing a credible, established and well-respected forum for all members of the industry in Miami to share their insight and expertise. Its readers are people who play a role in all aspects of the decision making for this specific industry's products and services. Compelling editorial content includes spotlights on local attorneys, legal professionals, law firms, expert witnesses, and local business leaders with additional feature articles and columns capturing the latest industry trends.

March 5, 2013

Carnival's Litigation Battle

From ABC News

We've all been reading the news about Triumph and the engine room fire, which subsequently shut down the vessel in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico as it was toting 4,200 passengers along for what should have been a relaxing vacation. The situation on board Triumph was undoubtedly a nightmare for passengers, but whether their lawsuits against Carnival will hold up in court still poses a question due to the fine print in passenger contracts.

Passengers who choose to sue may end up incurring more expenses in legal fees, spending more than what Carnival offered as compensation. The only legitimate lawsuits that have a probability of holding up in court will be if a passenger has permanent personal injury or illness caused as a result of Carnival's conduct. Suing over psychological distress, fear or emotional scarring will be difficult to litigate and may not be worth it for passengers.

Miami is the cruise capital of the world and by contract most cruise lines require that any case brought against them be brought to Miami within one year. This will play a huge roll in the lawsuits against Carnival. Many maritime lawyers have taken on these lawsuits but a local Miami law firm has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all passengers, highlighting the fact that Carnival chose to tow the ship to Alabama, instead of a closer port in Mexico, which caused passengers to endure more time onboard the ship.

With over 27 years experience, much of it in maritime law, I believe the fundamental issue that still needs to be addressed is that the cruise ship industry still needs more regulation. The first passenger to file suit against Carnival has alleged this, claiming the cruise ship was negligent. Carnival ignored the fact that the Triumph was not seaworthy and had been experiencing problems with the engine room fire suppression equipment before departing from Galveston, Texas. Cruise ships have lax safety policies, dated laws and contractual language that limit passenger rights and remedies. How many more travelers need to put at risk, and how much more aggressive litigation will take place, before much-needed regulations are put in place to avoid these situations?

September 28, 2012

What Happens When You Get More From Your Massage at a Resort Than You Asked For: Fontainebleau Resort Guest Sexually Assaulted By Masseuse

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While vacationing in Miami Beach, a guest of the Fontainebleau resort got more than she expected: sexual battery and a very personal licking by her massage therapist. Masseuse Francisco Araica was charged with sexual battery after police said he inappropriately touched and licked a woman during a massage.

The hotel guest was having a massage at the Lapis Spa inside the Fontainebleau hotel on September 23rd when Araica sexually battered her. The man reportedly told the guest he "had never done this before but she was so beautiful."

Vacationers at resorts often take advantage of the spa services and reasonably assume that the massage therapists are capable, qualified, trained, supervised and ethical. Most spa massages are exactly what the guest expected: therapeutic and relaxing. But guests are at the mercy of the massage therapist - and the spa itself - when in a vulnerable position of receiving a massage.

This is not the first time a guest at the Fontainebleau Resort has been sexually assaulted while receiving a massage. Leighton Law, P.A. has previously represented another guest of the hotel, who was sexually assaulted by a massage therapist in a similar manner.

August 16, 2012

The Parasailing Carnage Continues: Florida Visitor Killed in Parasailing Tragedy

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In what can only be characterized as a repeat tragedy in South Florida, 28 year-old Kathleen Miskell of Connecticut was killed while riding a parasail off the coast of Pompano Beach, Florida yesterday. While her husband watched helplessly from the tandem parasail in which they were strapped, the harness holding Kathleen failed, throwing her 200 feet to the water. Ms. Miskell was pronounced dead at North Broward Medical Center a short time later.

This tragic death falls almost on the anniversary of the double tragedy involving 15 year-old Amber May White and her 16 year-old sister Crystal in 2007. Amber May was killed and Crystal suffered a severe head injury when the parasail on which they were riding disconnected from its line, throwing them into a building. This too occurred in Pompano Beach.

Mrs. Miskell died while aboard a Wave Blast Water Sports parasailing operation. The ride was operated out of the Sands Hotel in Pompano Beach. This took place by the Hillsboro Inlet.

In the years since the tragedy involving the White children, attempts have been made to regulate the parasailing industry. Attorney John Elliott Leighton, lead counsel for the White family in the litigation against the parasailing operators and resort where the tragedy occurred, has worked to propose legislation in Florida to prevent these types of horrors. His client and mother of the two girls, Shannon Kraus, has passionately worked toward passage of the Amber May Law, originally proposed by State Senator Gwen Margolis. The law would set minimum requirements for parasailing safety. The bill has failed to pass each time it has been proposed, being blocked by resort interests.

The death of Kathleen Miskell highlights the need for regulation. While visitors to Florida's resorts think they are in good hands, in reality there is no state or federal regulation. These tragedies keep occurring.

Without any regulation, it is only through aggressive litigation that the industry - and the resorts themselves - will place an emphasis on the safety of passengers as opposed to making a quick dollar. Currently anyone can get a boat, tow rope and parasail and open up a parasailing business. Unfortunately tourists are not informed of the risks or the experience or quality of the operators. Far too many of these operators fail to carry substantial insurance or inspect and replace their equipment in a timely manner. All of this contributes to eventual tragedy.

Board certified trial lawyer John Elliott Leighton has represented too many victims of parasailing mishaps. It is his hope that by bringing this situation to the attention of the public, both legislatures and the public will awaken before more people are injured or killed.

Mr. Leighton had to break the news of Ms. Miskell's death to Amber May's mother. Miskell died four days before the anniversary of Amber May's accident. Five years ago Shannon had to remove her daughter from life support and Amber May was buried on what would have been her 16th birthday. As Shannon said, " I hope no parent ever has to go through this again." Sadly, this time it is Ms. Miskell's husband Stephen who must suffer the greatest loss.

April 16, 2012

Sunbather Run Over by Lifeguard Truck

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Sunbathers beware! The beach seems like the perfect place to kick back, relax, and maybe even take a snooze under the sun. But for some vacationers, being run over by a lifeguard truck can quickly change that relaxing mood.

The latest victim was a school teacher from North Carolina visiting Fort Lauderdale.

"All I can tell you is that suddenly I was a human speed bump," she told the Sun Sentinel. "There were tires moving over my body. I could have easily died."

The vehicle was a Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue truck. Surprisingly, the incident occurred near a lifeguard tower. The woman told the Sentinel that her injuries included burns, cuts, orthopedic and neurological injuries, which were treated at Broward General Medical Center. She's lucky they were not more serious, nor fatal.

Although legally sunbathers have the right of way over all traffic, several people have been run over on Florida beaches. Since 1995, there have been nearly 50 beach-driving accidents in Volusia County alone, all resulting in injury or death. Last year, a four-year-old child was hit and killed by a truck on New Smyrna Beach. Volusia County is among the defendants sued in that case, with a claim that the county should have created a safer environment for beachgoers.

Lifeguards are not the only trusted authorities to cause beach accidents. Last year, a woman suffered traumatic brain injuries after being struck by a police officer driving an ATV on Miami Beach, whose blood alcohol level was over the legal limit even five hours after the incident. The City of Miami Beach and the resort hotel that allegedly served alcohol to on-duty police officers on a regular basis were lawsuit contenders.

Resort Torts are cases of civil liability for negligent or criminal acts that arise out of a resort, vacation or recreational setting. These can involve aspects of hotel and motel safety, cruise ship litigation, pleasure boating and jet ski incidents, amusement, aquatic, diving and swimming incidents, foreign travel and medical emergencies, gaming and casinos, aviation (commercial and general), rental car liability, moped, bicycle and motorcycle safety, buses and tour guides, travel industry liability for crime victims, and medical care provided to vacationers.

Resort Torts can encompass a vast array of types of cases but they all have one thing in common: tourists, business travelers and locals alike are all exposed to risk while traveling, vacationing or engaging in resort or pleasure activities.

April 7, 2012

Lawsuit Filed for Boy Abused at Daycare

A daycare facility is not exactly a resort, but it also shouldn't be a place where abuse of 6-year-olds occurs.

On April 2, a lawsuit was filed against Kiddie U., Inc, on behalf of a child who was sexually abused there at age six by an older boy, according to the suit.

The Orlando, Florida daycare facility is accused of negligence, for providing an unsupervised area where the older child had created a concealed area in the form of a "fort" in the gym room, where the abuse allegedly took place, and for misrepresentation, having told the mother that there were cameras in every room.

The Orlando Sentinel reported the case filing and spoke with the boy's attorney, John Leighton, who said that the victim has since revealed that he was sexually battered by the older boy at least five times and is in therapy and has suffered emotional distress.

"It's a very sad situation, because it will take his entire life in a different trajectory," Leighton said.

Full article here.

April 6, 2012

Carnival Cruise Line Says Strip Search Claim Was Retaliation

As if a shipwreck, a fire, a gunpoint robbery and intestinal viruses weren't enough for the cruise industry this year, a Central Florida teenager has filed suit against Carnival Corp. in federal court in Miami, alleging a strip search and more by three employees.

The girl says that during a four-day cruise to the Bahamas, she was accused by a security officer of possessing "a bag with 'green leaves and substance inside'" as reported by the Miami Herald. Subsequently, three Carnival employees questioned the teen, searched her cabin, and examined her genitals. The complaint says the girl and her mother were removed from the ship and the alleged victim was placed in a holding cell in the Bahamas with an adult woman, where she was assaulted.

Carnival released a statement calling the claims "far-fetched" and "patently false, and obviously made in retaliation for the cruise line disembarking the plaintiff and her mother part-way through the voyage in Nassau..."

The plaintiff is seeking more than $75,000.

April 4, 2012

Resort Injury Icon: Titanic Disaster's 100th Anniversary


ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO THIS MONTH, in April 1912, the legendary RMS Titanic capped off its maiden voyage by colliding with an iceberg and sinking into the Atlantic Ocean. More than 1,500 people were killed and the tragedy was named one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.

You'd think that 100 years later, with advances in technological precision that mariners of days past could hardly have dreamed of, cruising would have become a much safer vacation option for tourists, and that preventable cruise ship disasters would be left behind with the bygone era.

But the year 2012, marking the Titanic disaster's 100th Anniversary, is proving otherwise...

The year kicked off with the worst cruise ship disaster since the Titanic, when the Costa Concordia crashed into a rock and sank off the coast of Italy, killing 30 and injuring many more in mid-January. The Resort Torts reported included lack of evacuation drills before the ship sailed, no head counts once in the life boats, and an "'unapproved, unauthorized' deviation in course" by the captain. Hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits have been filed.

In February, hundreds of passengers and crew members on Princess Cruise ships were struck with norovirus, a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus not uncommon aboard cruise ships, which can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death. Also in February, 22 passengers from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship were robbed at gunpoint during a shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. In the Bahamas, a woman went missing from a Celebration Cruise Line ship.

In March, the Costa Allegra caught fire, lost power, and was adrift in the Indian Ocean without lights or air conditioning and more than 1,000 people on board.

The annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference last month presented a "State of the Industry" discussion which focused not on new developments or ship launches as much as cruise ship safety, proper crew training, appropriate precautions and crisis management.

Cruise ships are virtual floating cities and prime locations for resort torts. As maritime hotels, they can lack fundamental safety policies, protocols, and procedures to protect passengers from harm. They generally fly foreign flags, so they do not have to comply with United States laws. Antiquated laws and contractual language limiting passenger rights and remedies can put travelers in a precarious position and require aggressive litigation. To learn more about Resort Torts, visit Leighton Law.

***For those looking to relive a historic tragedy, a memorial cruise will leave Southampton, UK on April 8 and sail the Titanic's exact path, presumably not to the same end. An anniversary cruise departs New York on April 10, taking the reverse route the Titanic would have taken, had it made it to its intended destination.***