When a victim dies because of the fault of another person, the survivors of the deceased may be able to bring civil claims against the accused perpetrator. Known as a wrongful death suit, these lawsuits seek compensation for the survivors for damages such as pain and suffering, lost wages of the deceased victim, and funeral expenses, among other things. One must prove that the perpetrator was legally at fault for the death of the victim in order to recover these money damages.
In March 2012, Michael and Alanna Demella, a Massachusetts couple, were visiting the Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. At some point during the vacation, Alanna Demella entered into a poolside cabana on the hotel’s grounds. While in the cabana, Alanna, who was seven months pregnant at the time, was killed when a car traveled off a nearby road and struck the cabana.
The driver, Rosa Rivera Kim, was drunk at the time of the accident. According to Benzinga, she was arrested. In January 2015, she was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison on two counts of DUI Manslaughter.
Michael Demella filed this wrongful death suit against the Riverside Hotel, alleging that the hotel was negligent in failing to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition. Dan Cotter, Demella’s attorney, argued that the hotel knew about this potential danger and did nothing to prevent it. The cabana was allegedly located in a particularly dangerous location near a sharp curve in the road. The hotel could have put up a protective barrier or could have moved the cabana elsewhere. Either way, Cotter argued that the hotel’s guests deserved greater protection than they received.
The jury agreed, awarding Demella a $24 million verdict. The hotel has been assigned fifteen percent of the responsibility, with 85% assigned to Kim, the driver. Thus, the net verdict against the hotel is $3.6 million.