Updated August 21, 2001. First appeared September 7,2000
On September 9, 1999 Sara Alvarez was walking her dog in the 5100 block of Kensington Circle. Ms Alvarez tripped over a concrete sidewalk, which had lifted above the other adjoining sidewalk and broke her left arm and injured her left shoulder. Ms.Alvarez claimed that the sidewalk was uneven approximately ½ to 2 inches. Ms.Alvarez’s husband filed a claim for loss of consortium.
Prior to this incident, the City’s Public Works Department had been notified (on July 23,1999) by a resident of the defect in the sidewalk. The sidewalk repair did not occur until September 16th, seven days after Ms. Alvarez’ fall. An investigator was contracted by Florida League of Cities, the City’s Insurance Administrator, to conduct an investigation of the area and the investigator concluded that the sidewalk was raised approximately ½ to 2 inches at the time of the injury. It was further determined that the City had notification of the defect in the sidewalk prior to Ms. Alvarez’ fall. Ms. Alvarez broke her left arm in two places and her physician described the injury as an acute open radius and ulna fracture. Medical treatment costs were $25,447.29 Ms.Alvarez received a 10% impairment rating on September 20, 2000 with the possibility that Ms. Alvarez may have to undergo another surgery to remove the hardware in her left arm in the future.
The City’s Insurance Carrier concluded that the City had exposure regarding this incident. Pursuant to the Florida League of Cities Municipal Insurance Trust Indemnity Agreement, the League negotiated a settlement between the City of Coral Springs and the Plaintiffs, Sara and Antonio Alvarez for $70,000.00, in exchange for a general release of all claims and dismissal of the lawsuit.
They successfully sued the City for its involvement. Once again the City of Coral Springs was asked to settle a case rather than fight it and once again Coral Springs taxpayers had to foot the bill.
The City Commissioners claim that there is nothing wrong with settling these cases. They say that the risk to go to court is too great financially and they herald their efforts as saving the taxpayers money.
Shouldn’t a city stand for what is right and not give in to the possible extortion efforts of those that sue the city needlessly knowing that they will collect something? When you settle every law suit, all of them, all of the time and you rarely fight them in court you become an easy target. Eighteen cases were settled last year and so far 10 cases this year. None were ever brought before the court. Was the city at fault in every case? With the total expenditures in lawsuit settlements last year at $1,782,364, and the total spent this year to date being over $869,815.90, the question is does the City ever fight any case? According to the minutes of the commission meetings the outside attorneys representing the city have yet to actually go to trial and defend the City in any of the cases. Settlement seems to be their only course of action. It is easy to settle a case when it’s not your money. It is even easier knowing as an attorney for our city that you will get paid no matter what.
To prove my point, here is a list of cases settled so far and their respective links to information about them. Click on the underlined Plaintiff and you will get to the information that the City of Coral Springs has on the case. Two of the cases this year do not have associated links as the city has failed to publish their information.
I’m not saying that every case deserves to be brought to court, or that some of the above items deserved settlement given the circumstances. The score is Coral Springs 0 , Plaintiffs 28.
See for yourselves:
|Commission Meeting Date||Plaintiff||Settlement Amount|
|08/21/2001||Sara and Antonio Alvarez||$70,000|
|07/17/2001||Mary and Thomas George||27,500|
|02/06/2001||MARY MC GLYNN||$432,000|
|02/06/2001||ROBERT WHITING, III||$20,000|
|TOTAL TO DATE 2001||$939,815.90|
|12/19/2000||ANATOLIO CHIMAL AND EVANGELINA BERNAL||$62,500|
|11/7/2000||1740 VENTURES, ET AL:||????|
|4/18/2000||Christopher and Marie Guarino||7,500|
|4/18/2000||A. F. Dozer, Inc., and Royal Palm Property Management, Inc||9,000|
|2/15/2000||Helene and Herbert Rippe||100,000|