State of FL vs. Enrique Quintana-Soto
Case No.: 2007CF014718NC
Charges: Trafficking cocaine (400 grams - 150 kilograms)
Trafficking in cannabis substance (25-2000 pounds)
Manufacture of a controlled substance
Possession of drug paraphernalia
Case outcome: Nolle Prosequi
Loss of Seven Fingers Results in $8.5 Million Settlement
Carlos Manuel Chomat, et al.
Northern Insurance Company of New York, et al.
Case No.: 2002-16565 CA 01
Miami-Dade Circuit Court
Description: Employer Liability
Filing Date: June 28, 2002
Judge: Michael Genden
Plaintiff Attorney: Hoss Hernandez of Hoss Hernandez, P.A., Miami, and Howard Brodsky, Miami
Defense Attorney: For Northern Insurance, Randolph Evans of McKenna Long & Aldridge, Atlanta; and William Reese of Lane Reese Aulick Summers & Field, Coral Gables; for Seitlin & Co., Steven Chackman of Berstein Chackman, Hollywood.
Details: In March 2001, Carlos Chomat, then 33, was working as a machine operator in Southneastern Paper Products Export Inc.’s Miami plant. As Chomat was making sure the paper fed into a machine in a straight line, his left hand become caught. In trying to free his hand, two fingers on his right hand also became entangled in the machine. Chomat lost seven fingers in the accident.
Chomat and his wife, Elena Quintana Caraballoso, initially filed suit against Southeastern Paper. That negligence suit alleged that the company had not trained or informed Chomat of the safety measures involved in operating the machine. Souteastern, the suit said, “engaged in conduct that was substantially certain to result in death or great bodily harm [to Chomat].”According to the suit, the machine was set up to bypass the safety guard in order to increase production. Caraballoso sued for loss of consortium.
Southeastern’s insurance company, Northern Insurance Company of New York, denied coverage relating to Chomat’s claim. The paper company then sued its insurance company and Seitlin, the insurance broker.
Southeastern subsequently filed for bankruptcy and entered into a consent judgment with Chomat and his wife that assigned them the right to sue Northern and Seitlin.
Plaintiff Case: Brodsky said the first step was to get the claim out of the workers’ compensation system, where the likely recovery would be less than in circuit court. He and Hernandez cited the Florida Supreme Court’s 2000 ruling in Turner v. PCR, which held an employee can sue an employer in circuit court if the employer engaged in conduct that was substantially certain to result in death or great bodily harm to the employee.
The case against Northern and Seitlin boiled down to whether Southeastern’s insurance plan covered Chomat’s injury. The insurance policy was set up on March 1, 2001, two weeks before the incident.
Defense case: Attorneys for Nothern and Seitlin did not return phone calls before deadline. But Brodsky and Hernandez said Northern initially claimed that Southeastern’s insurance policy did not include employer liability coverage and that the underlying insurance policy was not in place at the time of the injury. Seitlin, they said, contended that the policy should have been written with employer liability from the outset.
After Southeastern’s settlement with Chomat and his wife, Northern argued that the consent judgment was entered into under collusion and that Chomat and his wife should not be allowed to pursue their claim against the company. Seitlin’s defense was that because Southeastern had insurance coverage at the time of the accident, Seitlin should not be held accountable for Northern’s denial of coverage and that Northern was solely liable.
Outcome: In April 2002, Judge Genden denied Southeastern’s motion to dismiss based on the argument that the case belonged in the workers’ comp system. More recently, Judge Genden ruled that Northern could depose Hernandez and Brodsky, as well as Southeastern’s attorney to look for collusion. Judge Genden also found there was insurance coverage on March 14, 2001, allowing Seitlin to remove itself from the case. Those more recent decisions were appealed in the 3rd District Court of Appeal, which ruled against both deposing the attorneys and Genden’s insurance coverage decision. Shortly after the 3rd DCA decision was issued, Northern contacted Hernandez and Brodsky to mediate the case. On June 8, the case settled for $8.5 millon, which included attorneys' fees and other costs. Two-thirds will be paid by Northern, with the remainder to be paid by Seitlin. Chomat and his wife will receive $5.5 million in a lump sum immediately, with the remainder to be paid in installments.
Comments: Hernandez said he called many personal injury attorneys to help him with the case and was told that he would never get it out of the workers’ compensation system. But Brodsky, who had never handled a personal injury case before, was able to get the case removed form the workers’ compensation system and sue the employer. “That is mind-blowing,” Hernandez said. – Rebecca Riddick.
Miami Herald, The (FL)
TRUCKER STROKE DELAYS PROJECTS CONSTRUCTION JOBS STARVED FOR DIRT
February 24, 2000
While cargo is moving briskly out of the Port of Miami-Dade, hundreds of independent dump-truck drivers in west Miami-Dade County are refusing to haul gravel, sand, rock and dirt-protesting the same issues that angered port drivers.
On Wednesdays, drivers parked their trucks along the shoulder of Okeechobee Road from Northwest 116th Way almost to the entrance of Florida’s Turnpike. For two miles, dump trucks- some flying American flags and bearing strike signs in English and Spanish- were stacked bumper to bumper. The dump-truck drivers’ strike, which began Feb. 1, is delaying road, construction and landscaping projects across South Florida – especially those dependent on large volumes of fill.
“When a company starts a project, we’re the first ones to go there with gravel, sand and rock,” said Sergio Concepcion, a striking driver who lives in Southwest Dade.
Miami-Dade County has reported delays of up to two weeks on some drainage and sidewalk repair and removal projects because it can’t get the materials it needs.
“We’re also having problems getting [debris] hauled away from projects,” said Rhonda Barnett, a county spokeswomen. “It’s both coming and going.”
The independent drivers say their main issue is winning higher rates from the brokers who match the truck owner/operators with jobs. Like the port drivers, the dump truck drivers initially were angered by higher diesel prices.
“We’re trying to get better rates, better insurance prices and some respect from the broker,” said Oscar de Leon, vice president for the Support Dump Trucking Group, a loosely-knit organization that has come together to resolve drivers’ issues.
“Right now, there’s no minimum rate per load. We need to establish one. Now the brokers pay us whatever they want to pay.” De Leon said.
Rising diesel prices and high insurance premiums charged by brokers are eating into drivers’ take-home pay, de Leon said. He said drivers need a rate increase of around 35 percent.
To avoid violations of antitrust laws, drivers continued to negotiate rate increased with individual brokers Wednesday, said Hosey Hernandez, an attorney for the Support Dump Trucking Group.
About 70 percent of the brokers have agreed to increases of 20 to 30 percent, de Leon said.
Overland Carrier is among the companies that have balked.
“Overland said it doesn’t have to negotiate with anyone. They threw the drivers out and took away their insurance papers,” de Leon said. The company could not be reached late Wednesday.
Unlike independent drivers at the port who began returning to work last Friday while some of their complaints were still under discussion, de Leon said the dump-truck drivers aren’t willing to end their strike “until the problem is fixed for all our drivers”.
The port drivers won rate increases and a fuel surcharge to help defray rising diesel costs form some- but not all- trucking companies. Florida Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson also agreed to look into drivers’ complaint that they are required to buy their insurance from trucking brokers at big markups if they want to work.
PORT CARGO MOVING
“We are pleased that our cargo is moving normally at the port once again and are hopeful that continued talks among all concerned parties will result in resolution of the outstanding issues,” Port Director Charles Towsley said.
Meanwhile, the intersection of Okeechobee Road and Northwest 138th Street in Hialeah Gardens has turned into strike central for dumb-truck drivers. It is here where de Leon, a cell phone to his ear, holds court among signs that read, “We Have No Jobs but We Have Votes”.
Each day, more then 1,000 drivers check in with the support Dump Trucking Group near the intersection, and hundreds of drivers at a time mill around waiting for news, drinking coffee and guarapo (sugar cane juice) and buying food from lunch trucks stationed nearby.
“Hopefully, we can get back to work next week,” Concepcion said. “I’m doing OK because I don't have many bills, but some of these guys can’t pay their phone bills or mortgages”.
Today, he said, about 80 drivers plan to dramatize their plight by taking a convoy of dump trucks through downtown Miami streets,
Meanwhile, work on some projects, from parking lots to raods, have been stopped or delayed because of the difficulty in getting deliveries of gravel and other materials.
The impact on the major rock quarries in west Dade has been minimal because most have their own hauler or have brought in trucks from elsewhere around the state.
Brian Rick, a Department of Transportation spokesman, said projects requiring large amounts of earth-moving have been affected but that overall the strike has not had major impact on roadwork.
The project at Biscayne Boulevard and 203rd Street is among those where there has been a slowdown.
“We’ve got fewer trucks coming in. There are about 10 trucks running per day, compared to 20 before,” said Rudy Garcia, DOT senior engineer for the Biscayne project.
The project, which consists of raised ramps leading to an overpass bridge, was ahead of schedule. “We’re still OK, but the strike is eating into our cushion,” Garcia said.
Herald business writer Ina Cordle contributed to this report.
The Miami Herald
Wednesday, May 6, 1998
Critics question racial motives in judge’s civil rights ruling
By: Sabrina L. Miller
Herald Staff Writer
Federal Judge Kenneth Ryskamp will tell you, in his understated way, that he abhors injustice and discrimination.
His strong Presbyterian faith tells him it is the right way to be. God’s way to be. His traditional Midwestern upbringing has provided the framework for the ethic that has driven his entire life: work hard and live well. That combination of values has paid off for Ryskamp, 65, who many agree is a brilliant judge. But his ruling in some of South Florida’s most controversial civil rights cases- including a school desegregation suit against the Broward School Board- and his affiliations outside the court continue to leave many questioning his motives, his actions and his attitudes about race.
In the School Board case, Ryskamp dismissed the suit, saying there were inequities in the county’s school but the district did not intentionally discriminate against black students during the past decade. The Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition and the National Urban League joined the suit last week, which is under appeal, on the side of the plaintiffs.
Ryskamp, a U.S. District Court judge in Florida’s Southern District since 1986, has steered clear of the spotlight since his 1991 nomination to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was defeated. But his rulings from striking down minority contracting programs in Miami-Dade County to the Broward desegregation case, have been no less controversial. And his detractors no less vocal.
“He’s never made a good ruling on civil rights litigation,” said Levi Williams, an attorney in the Broward desegregation case. “How do you justify that?” Seven years after the judicial defeat, after all the scrutiny of his record and breaking ties with the Riviera Club, long considered exclusionary to blacks and Jews, Ryskamp still can’t understand why he generates so much controversy. “I am not an ideologue, I’m not a legislator. I’m just applying the law,” Ryskamp said in his first interview with The Herald in seven years.
Nothing surprises, or still, hurts him more than the perception that he’s racist. “You spend a whole lifetime having a good reputation. It’s kind of a jolt that you’re not really prepared for,” he said. Although the perception that Ryskamp is insensitive to matters of race discrimination has continued to dog him, his decisions are rarely reversed. The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld his ruling striking down Miami-Dade’s minority set-aside program.
Some Lawyers cringe
Still, many lawyers cringe when they go before him on civil rights cases. “The moment I found out he was the judge I thought, ‘I have just lost this case,’” said one attorney on a voting rights case before Ryskamp. The attorney asked not to be named because the case is pending. “The perception is that this is not a judge you’re going to win a civil rights case in front of.”
In the Broward schools case, Ryskamp’s ruling that attorneys for black plaintiffs failed to prove intentional discrimination meant the case would not go to trial. Williams believes that if the ruling stands, it effectively dismantles Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 desegregation case that ended “separate but equal” education.
Others who’ve been before Ryskamp said he has the temperament, legal knowledge and writing skills to do a good job. “I guess like everybody else, I’ve heard good and bad about him,” said attorney Hoss Hernandez, whose client, Willie Priester sued Riviera Beach after police turned their dogs on him for years ago. “I didn’t want him recused because I thought he’d be fair.” The gamble paid off for Priester, a black man. A jury awarded him $25,000 and Ryskamp let the decision stand. The Case was similar to one that generated early criticism of Ryskamp. In 1987, Ryskamp threw out a jury award to four black men who sued West Palm Beach after being bitten by police dogs. Ryskamp told the men- some of whom had committed no crime- that “it might not be inappropriate to carry around a few scars to remind you of your wrongdoing in the past.” He was reversed on appeal. Ryskamp said he doesn’t consider reversal a reflection of his skills because “what judge hasn’t been reversed?”
Strong Christian faith
Who is this man who is both admired and reviled? Even people who have known him for decades cannot say with all certainty. Kenneth Ryskamp, they’ll tell you, is not a back-slapper. Not the kind of guy who’ll keep you in stitches at a party. He is, they say, a family man whose actions in and out of the courtroom are fueled by a strong Christian faith. “he’s a very devout Christian. He’s just what I’d call a fine Christian gentleman,” said Hugo Black, Jr., whose father was the U.S.. Supreme Court Justice. Ryskamp was an elder at Granada Presbyterian Church in Coral Gables, where he lived for more than 20 years before moving to a gated community in Jupiter. Now he attends First Presbyterian Church in North Palm Beach but does not have a leadership role there.
Many in South Florida’s legal community consider him a man from another time. A time when the privileged didn’t worry about bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots. A time when belonging to all white, all male cubs didn’t generate accusations of racism. Ryskamp’s affiliation with the Riviera Club, from which he resigned a week before he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, helped sink his appellate court appointment in 1991. The perception was that he resigned because of the hearing and that he seemed defensive when questioned about his membership in the club. Ryskamp blamed the club’s image on bad press coverage and said to his knowledge “no black had applied.” He lost when Democrats voted against him and Republicans voted for him. “I was defeated by the liberal groups who rallied against me,” he said. “It was all politics.”
School and church
Kenneth Lee Ryskamp is a Depression-era baby, born in 1932 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the state’s second-largest city. He was nurtured in a booming Dutch immigrant community. His life was driven by two constants: school and church. He and his brother, James Jr., were educated at schools run by the Christian Reformed Church, including Calvin College. They made their parents, James and Marguerite, proud: Kenny became a lawyer, James Jr. a doctor. Kenneth Ryskamp moved to South Florida in 1953, enrolling at the University of Miami Law School. He received his law degree in 1956. He belonged to several organizations, including a social fraternity called L’Apache. One of his fellow L’Apache members was Edward Marko, now Broward School Board attorney. Broward attorney Chris Fertig and Levi Williams, who represented parents in the desegregation case, asked Ryskamp to recuse himself because of his friendship with Marko. Ryskamp declined.
Ryskamp explained recently that Marko, who is younger, was not a close friend in college. Ryskamp has rarely recused himself, particularly when the attorney brings up controversial elements of his past, such as the perception of being racially insensitive. He was extremely offended by a motion from West Palm Beach attorney Elliot Shaw, who called Ryskamp “a Nazi at heart” and said he should be impeached. “He is unfit to sit on civil rights cases,” Shaw said. “He is systematically unraveling the civil rights law in the United States.” While most critics aren’t as outspoken as Shaw, he isn’t alone in his sentiments about Ryskamp. “There is a higher threshold or him than for some other judges. He was ahead of the Supreme Court,” said Miami attorney H.T. Smith. “He had strict scrutiny before the Supreme Court enunciated it has the law of the land”
636 So.2d 110
19 Fla. L. Weekly D818
Roy J. Schneider, Jr., Appellees.
District Court of Appeal of Florida,
April 12, 1994.
Rehearing Denied May 24, 1994.
Truman A. Skinner, Miami, for Appellant
Shalle Stephen Fine, Miami, Hosey Hernandez, Coconut Grove, for appellees.
Before SCHWARTZ, C.J., and HUBBART and GERSTEN, JJ.
Following our decision in Skinn v. Schneider, 549 So.2d 194 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989), rev. denied, 563 So.2d 633 (Fla. 1990), the trial court surcharged the deceased’s son, Roy Schneider, Jr., $100,000 for the real property which the deceased conveyed to the son just before the deceased’s death. We held in Shinn that the inter vivos conveyance of this realty constituted an ademption by satisfaction of the residuary device which the son received under the deceased’s will. Upon remand, the trial court, in effect, valued this property at $200,000 at the time of the conveyance to the son; allowed the son to retain $10,000 value of this property as a one0half residuary devisee under the will of the deceased; and ordered the son to pay in cash the remaining $100,000 value in this property to the remaining residuary devisees under the deceased’s will. The son appeals, and the residuary devisees cross appeal. We affirm on the main appeal, but reverse on the cross appeal.
On the main appeal, we reject the son’s contention that the value of the property in question at the time of the conveyance should be discounted by the $200,000 mortgage which the deceased had previously placed on the property. This is so because the son (a) ultimately received the entire proceeds of this mortgage, and (b) subsequent to the deceased’s death, sold the property and satisfied the mortgage form the proceeds of the sale’ for purposes of valuing this gift to the son, it was therefore proper not to discout the mortgage in this case. This result is not changed by the fact that the proceeds of the subject mortgage first went to a corporation which the son owned, and then to the son. See in William’s Will, 71 N.M. 39, 376 P. 376 P2d 3 20-21 (1962); 6 William J Bowe & Douglas H. Parker, Page on the Law of Wills Sec. 54.36 (4th ed. 1962).
On cross appeal, we agree with the residuary devisees that the trial court erred in setting a fair market value for the subject property at the time of the conveyance to the son at $200,000 because there is insufficient evidence adduced below to support such a valuation; although the property was mortgaged for $200,000, clearly the property was not mortgaged at 100% market value. Indeed, the son argues, and we agree, that the correct fair market value of the property was $270,000 at the time of the conveyance to the son, the amount at which the property was assessed for federal estate and gift tax purpose; we disagree, however, with the son that this $270,000 fair market value should be discounted by the amount of the mortgage, for reasons previously stated. On the cross appeal, we conclude that the trial court erred in setting a fair market value of $200,000 for the subject property at the time of the conveyance to the son; the correct valuation should have been $270,000. Sec 732.609, Fla. Stat. (1987).
The final order appealed from the affirmed on the main appeal, but reversed on the cross appeal, and the cause is remanded to the trial court with directions (1) to set a fair market value of the subject property at $270,000 at the time of the conveyance of same to Roy J. Schneider, Jr., (2) to allow Roy J. Schneider, Jr. to retain $135,000 value of this property as a one-half residuary devisee under the deceased’s will, and (3) to assess a surcharge against Roy J. Schneider, Jr. of $135,000 payable to the remaining residuary devisees under the deceased’s will.
Affirmed in part; reversed in part.
National Law Library
578 So.2d 64
Bernice THOMAS, Appellant,
PUBLIX SUPERMARKETS, INC., Appellee
578 So.2d 64, 16 Fla. L. Week. 1107
District Court of Appeal of Florida,
April 24, 1991.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Broward County; Robert Lance Andrews, Judge.
Abraham L. Bassie and Hoss Hernandez of Law Offices of Abraham L. Bassie, Miami, for appellant.
Shelley H. Leinicke of Wicker, Smith, Blomqvist, Tutan, O’Hara, McCoy, Graham & Lane, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for appellee
We reverse the trial court’s final summary judgment given issues of material fact exist concerning whether the product applied to appellee’s floor created a dangerous condition causing appellant’s fall. We also note that the trial court unreasonably restricted appellant’s discovery to only the store in question when the record reflects appellee used the same floor product in its other stores. See Lawrence v. Florida East Coast Railway Co., 346 So.2d 88 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985), rev. denied, 482 So.2d 348 (Fla. 1986)
REVERSED and REMANDED.
ANSTEAD, DELL and FARMER, JJ., concur.