The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that Cruise giant Carnival Corp. will pay more than $400,000 in penalties and damages as part of a settlement over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The parent company of Carnival, Princess and Holland America also has agreed to make changes to 42 existing vessels at the three brands to comply with ADA regulations. Seven other vessels in various stages of design and construction also will be surveyed and, if necessary, updated to comply with the regulations.

There are another 13 ships operated by the brands that could be subject to possible changes if they continue to be in service in U.S. ports in four years.

The settlement calls for 3 percent of cabins on the ships to be accessible to passengers with disabilities. The cabins should fall into one of three categories: fully accessible cabins, fully accessible cabins with a single side approach to the bed and ambulatory accessible cabins.

Carnival Corp. also agreed to create brand standards that address an array of accessibility issues, provide ADA training to employees and ensure reservation systems allow for people with disabilities to book accessible cabins.

The company will also appoint an ADA compliance officer at the executive level as well as ADA responsibility officers at its Carnival brand and at the Holland America Group, which includes Holland America and Princess. An officer on each ship also will be appointed to resolve ADA-related issues.

6306304003_63c3131719_zThis settlement agreement comes after a Justice Department investigation of complaints that Carnival Corp. failed to properly provide and reserve accessible cabins for individuals with mobility disabilities as is required under the ADA. Additionally, the company also was accused of failing to reasonably modify policies to accommodate individuals with disabilities; afford individuals with disabilities the same opportunities to participate in programs and services, including embarkation and disembarkation; and provide effective communication during muster and emergency drills.

According to the Justice Department, Carnival Corp. will pay a civil penalty of $55,000 to the United States and $350,000 in damages to individuals harmed by past discrimination. The agency says Carnival Corp. officials cooperated during the investigation.

Carnival Corp. says it is pleased with the settlement, and released the following statement:

“We have historically maintained a strong focus on accessibility and have a longstanding track record of meeting the needs of all our guests. We will continue to do so with even more enhancements in staff training, accessibility policies and communications, as well as additional shipboard accessibility features.”

Regardless of the specific cause of a cruise ship accident, the injuries passengers may suffer on these excursions can be extremely serious. It is important that the individual or company responsible is held accountable for their wrongdoing.

Continue reading

A federal court has agreed to hear an appeal on whether drivers in Palm Beach County and across Florida should be granted class-action status in their claim that HCA hospitals, including JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, are severely overcharging for services under the state’s car insurance system.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta agreed this week to consider an appeal of a lower-court decision in Florida that drivers could pursue lawsuits individually, but not as a group. The plaintiffs allege that the hospitals are draining Personal Injury Protection benefits by charging up to 65 times what Medicare pays.

4838079960_bea63b1287_zAn HCA statement issues said the case lacks merit and the company intends to defend it vigorously.

Recently, the Florida state legislature has taken steps to reduce the amount of fraud in the insurance system, reduce payment delays and limit use of the court system. The following changes were implemented:

  • In the past, injury victims had an unlimited time frame to make an injury claim, but now injury victims only have 14 days to seek medical treatment that may be covered by PIP.
  • Under the new law, people with minor injuries might be limited on the amount of financial recovery that they will receive from PIP coverage.
  • PIP compensation is limited to 80 percent of your medical costs.

Continue reading

When the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission finds fault or a potential for danger in a certain product, they have the authority to request a product recall. A product recall is a government issued request to return a defective product to the maker. While these product recalls can be costly and tarnish a company’s reputation, overall, they are helpful in limiting liability for corporate negligence.

In some cases, companies will issue a recall voluntarily, which means the recall was not mandated by the CPSC. Nearly all announced recalls are voluntary. Voluntary product recalls are thought to be safeguards against potential lawsuits and tricky legal situations.

Voluntary Recalls in 2015

In 2015, there have been many headlines listing several high-profile voluntary recalls, including:

  • Takata Airbags – Takata airbag inflators were recalled for a defect that involved more than 34 million vehicles. This recall came after it was found that the inflators could rupture when deployed, causing them to seriously injure occupants in the vehicle. At least 6 deaths and more than 100 injuries have been associated with the defect. This recall is currently the largest automotive recall in the history of the U.S.
  • Niagara Bottling – After evidence was found linking E. coli bacteria at the springsource, a voluntary recall was made. This recall involved spring water produced at two of their Pennsylvania plants from June 10 to June 18, 2015.
  • 15893184897_bea46542a1_zBlue Bell Ice Cream – Blue Bell Creamery issued a recall for all ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and any of their frozen snacks after it was found that these foods might have been contaminated with Listeria. At this time, there are at least 10 different cases of people who have been infected with the disease and three deaths.
  • Sabra Hummus – Sabra Dipping Co., LLC issued a nationwide voluntary recall of select batches of its classic hummus due to a possible contamination with Listeria.
  • Kraft Mac & Cheese – Kraft issued a voluntary recall in March after a concern arose of metal pieces located in approximately 240,000 boxes of Macaroni & Cheese dinners.

Continue reading

A 3-year-old boy drowned Tuesday night at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, according to deputies.

The call came in around 8 p.m. to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies claim the boy got separated from his parents and drowned in the pool. He was transported to Celebration Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The family was visiting from New York.

6989405560_761828d79f_zFlorida, especially the Orlando and central Florida area, is home to a great number of water parks. Children of all ages love water parks, and they are an ideal destination for many families who enjoy the wave pools, slides and fun. However, if waterparks are not properly operated or staffed, they can be quite dangerous, especially for young or inexperienced swimmers. Children can easily get trapped by drains that are missing their covers or they can hit their heads while on a slide other ride and become incapacitated in the water.

Waterpark operators have a legal responsibility to take adequate steps to ensure the water park is free from any hazards. This may include making sure the rides are built, maintained and inspected properly. Additionally, this also includes ensuring that drains are working properly and safety equipment is in working condition. Water parks must also ensure they are staffed accordingly. They must have enough lifeguards, and these lifeguards must be properly trained to perform their duties.

Continue reading

Four people are now dead after a crash Sunday night in Frostproof.

Around 10:15 p.m., a 29-year-old Avon Park man is believed to have lost control of his Dodge sedan on southbound U.S. 27 between County Road 630-A and U.S. 98, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The Dodge exited the roadway, struck a concrete culvert and came to rest in a drainage ditch.

First responders found two passengers dead: a 38-year-old Frostproof man and a 28-year-old Eustis man.

The driver and another passenger, a 33-year-old Frostproof man, were airlifted to Lakeland Regional Health. One man passed away the same day and another died Monday.

252138656_b7f6b0973e_zPolice believe a second car may have been involved. They suspect a 1990s black Honda with a light-colored left-front fender may have been in the area. The car would have been heading south on U.S. 27. Anyone with information about this vehicle is asked to call Deputy Sheriff Johnnie Wombles at 863-297-1109.

Across the United States, on average, a person dies in a car accident every 12 minutes. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for all people under 35.

Most auto accident fatalities are entirely preventable, resulting from driver negligence. When one driver’s negligent actions behind the wheel causes the death of another person, survivors of the victim are entitled to make a claim for financial compensation for the wrongful death of their loved one.

While no amount of money can compensate for the loss of a human life, making a wrongful death claim for an auto accident fatality is not really about the money, it’s about accountability and making careless drivers face up to the tragedy they have caused a family. Nothing can bring the person back, but holding the wrongdoer accountable can be of some comfort and possibly prevent future similar accidents.

Continue reading

An 8-year-old boy was seriously harmed after being struck by car while riding his bicycle, according to Tampa police.

The crash occurred at about 2:15 p.m. at the intersection of Linebaugh and Taliaferro avenues.

16172457266_76f713ecc4_zPolice believe the boy was riding his bicycle north on Taliaferro Avenue when he rode into the vehicle’s path. Witnesses claim the driver was not speeding at the time.

Police allege the boy was not wearing a helmet at the time, and that some of his injuries appear to be from hitting his head on the pavement.

The boy is currently being treated at Tampa General Hospital.

Bicycle accidents typically involve a drunk or distracted driver. Sometimes these accidents are the mistake of an inexperienced motorist. The sad reality is that bicycle collisions with cars account for a large amount of catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths on Florida roadways. Driver negligence often plays a part in these crashes, usually consists of running a stop sign, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failing to yield to the biker or being inattentive while backing out of a driveway.

A bicycle accident can cause severe emotional trauma in addition to physical injury. A human body on a bicycle is hardly a match for a powerful automobile or impact with hard pavement. Even the most experienced bikers can be injured in one of these accidents.

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in Florida, you could be entitled to financial recovery for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost Wages
  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Emotional Distress
  • Disfigurement

Continue reading

Orlando Eye officials have confirmed that the ride was officially re-opened, almost 24 hours after it was shut down.

Officials said that after conducting a thorough inspection, technicians were able to resolve the default that monitors the wheel’s position.

According to reports, some passengers were stuck on board the Orlando Eye for nearly two hours on Friday. The ride stopped and guests were stranded on the large observation wheel around 3:45 p.m.

“The operating systems for the Orlando Eye indicated a technical default with the system that monitors the wheel position of the Orlando Eye,” said a spokesperson for the attraction on International Drive. “As a safety precaution, the attraction is designed to automatically shut down if communication with this system is interrupted.”

People remained in the capsules while engineers and technicians worked to fix the issue. No injuries have been reported.

One of the Orlando Eye passengers told FOX 35 that she had been stuck for 90 minutes before fire trucks began to assemble below. She stated that the enclosed capsule had no fresh air being pumped through it at the time.

“Immediately following the default, the operations team began working to resolve the matter to allow guests to disembark the attraction,” according to a spokesperson for the Orlando Eye. “A backup system was employed that allowed capsules to be moved to the platform and opened manually.”

Reports indicate that operators of the Orlando Eye maintained constant communication with passengers during the event. As of now, operations have been fully restored.

Millions of visitors come to the Orlando area every year, and Orlando-area rides and amusement parks are a big reason why people choose this area as their vacation spot. The theme park business is highly competitive, and theme parks are always looking for the fastest, scariest rides that provide the greatest thrills to guests. The sad truth is that some of these rides that are designed to appear dangerous actually are. Due to negligent design, poor maintenance and other factors, many people can suffer serious harm on these rides.

Continue reading

A strip club, just west of Interstate 95 in Hallandale, is just one of three locations that settled a class action suit with its exotic dancers for $6 million Tuesday.

The agreement received preliminary approval from a federal judge on Tuesday.

A former dancer sued the company over labor violations last summer. During her time at the club she was classified as an independent contractor rather than an employee, resulting in her wages coming solely from tips. But unlike waitresses, the woman never received any hourly pay.

The woman said she raised her concerns over pay with a manager, and that he told her if she didn’t like their system she could leave.

This case brings attention to the practices of an industry that has become notorious for labor violations. In addition to not receiving hourly pay, this woman, along with other dancers, was made to pay a range of fees as part of working as an independent contractor. The costs ranged from $55 for leasing the club’s space to $20 for the D.J. as well as between $3 to $5 for each security guard, all depending on the shift worked. These types of performance fees are a common practice across the industry.

328174549_2b46dfd166_mThis $6 million payout could benefit more than 4,700 women who worked at three club locations over the last five years. In addition to the one in Hallandale, there are clubs in Tampa and Toledo, Ohio.

This suit is not the first of its kind. In April, another strip club settled a class action suit in New York for $15 million because of similar labor violations. And last December, a club in Texas settled a dispute with its dancers for $2.3 million.

While this settlement does not require the club to change its labor practices, other recent cases have resulted in a change. Last October, the Nevada Supreme Court unanimously ruled that dancers at a Nevada club must be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. And earlier in 2014, courts in Georgia and Arkansas also ruled in favor of classifying dancers as employees.

Some clubs offer performers a choice of whether they wish to be classified as an employee or independent contractor.

According to the Department of Labor, offering this choice may not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which guarantees certain employment protections including minimum wage and overtime.

Whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor depends on the nature of the relationship, not the decision of the employee. If an individual is working full-time and exclusively for one company, these are usually signs that the person is an employee, not an independent contractor.

This lawsuit is based on the Fair Labor and Standards Act, which states that whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor revolves around multiple factors, including the following:

 

  • The extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business.
  • Whether the worker’s managerial skills affect his or her opportunity for profit and loss.
  • The relative investments in facilities and equipment by the worker and the employer.
  • The worker’s skill and initiative.
  • The permanency of the worker’s relationship with the employer.
  • The nature and degree of control by the employer.

 

The question of whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor is increasingly important because we are seeing an increase in lawsuits like these. Many laws and regulations create vast distinctions between independent contractors and employees, which makes it crucial for business owners to carefully consider the question of classification. The penalties for misclassifying employees can be extreme.

Continue reading

Fireworks are definitely dangerous, but they are not the only dangers to avoid this Fourth of July weekend. The roadways are especially hazardous during the summer holidays. When you are traveling to or from an Independence Day party this year, please remember to be on the look out for reckless drivers.

Here are a few dangers to try and avoid this Fourth of July:

  • Drunk drivers. Think about it, almost every Florida Independence Day celebration will have alcohol. Partygoers who are drinking at parties and such should not get behind the wheel of a car. If you see a car weaving or dodging in and out of traffic, keep your distance. If you have a passenger with you, consider notifying authorities.
  • 4428561177_831c2f9269_zDrowsy Drivers. Many holiday drivers are travelling lengthy distances to get to their final destination. Those who have been driving for hours may be feeling fatigued. Drowsy driving is often as dangerous as drunk drivers, so stay alert.
  • Distracted Drivers. Keep in mind that many travelers on Florida roadways are from out of town and have never been to the area before. Taking your eyes off the road for just a few seconds to look at a navigation device can have devastating results. Avoid being a distracted driver by staying off your cell phone and having other passengers check your GPS or phone for you.
  • Speeding Drivers. People that are anxious to get where they are going may decide to speed or drive recklessly. Make sure you obey the posted speed limits and monitor your speed if there is heavy traffic.

Continue reading

The mother of a 13-year-old girl is suing Uber and one of its drivers after the driver was convicted of sexually assaulting the young girl earlier this year.

The man convicted of sexual assault is a driver for Uber. The man drove a young teen girl from her home to her middle school 10 to 20 times between October and November of last year. The lawsuit alleges the man made several inappropriate sexual comments, offered to buy the girl panties and asked her to not get another boyfriend.

12866520015_3b23fc2086_zThe police were notified after the girl told her mother the man rubbed her inner thigh. The man was arrested three months later. Prosecutors charged the man with misdemeanor assault, and he pled guilty in April.

The man received a six-month suspended jail sentence. In addition to the suspended sentence, his driver’s license was suspended for a month and he was banned him from having any contact with the victim.

The Civil Lawsuit Alleges Negligent Hiring

Even though the criminal case is over for the driver, he will be appearing back in civil court soon. Just this month, the girl’ s mother filed a lawsuit suing the driver and Uber for her daughter’s sexual assault.

The lawsuit alleges that Uber did not properly screen or train the driver. The mother claims that the driver had several traffic offenses, including reckless driving, that Uber overlooked.

According to the lawsuit, the victim’s family is claiming negligent hiring against Uber.

Negligent hiring or retention holds a company responsible for its employee’s criminal acts. In order to win this type of lawsuit, the plaintiffs would need to prove that the employer acted carelessly when hiring the employee, and because of this recklessness, its clients were subjected to harm.

In this specific case, the mother of the girl assaulted claims that Uber hired the driver without performing a proper background check on him. The man was also convicted of reckless driving and still hired to drive people around. Uber will likely try to argue this fact and suggest that nothing in the driver’s background check indicated that he would sexually assault others.

The victim and family are asking for $2.4 million in damages.

Continue reading

Contact Information