Recently in Florida Scuba Diving & Snorkeling Injury Category

March 7, 2014

Passenger with Collapsed Lung Taken Off Disney Fantasy

Disney Cruise Collapsed Lung.jpgIt is being widely reported that a 21-year-old passenger was medically evacuated from the Disney Fantasy last Thursday after complaining of chest pains. It has been learned that the man had completed two scuba dives the day before. X-rays preformed aboard the cruise ship showed one of his lungs was 40% collapsed. Based upon this medical finding, the Coast Guard was notified and a helicopter crew was dispatched to take the ill passenger off the ship. The passenger was taken to Mariner's Hospital in Tavanier.

December 21, 2011

Brais & Brais Files Wrongful Death Case on Behalf of Widow Whose Husband Drowned Off Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Ft. Lauderdale Drowning Attorneys.jpgBrais & Brais' attorneys have filed a wrongful death case in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for the drowning of Leonardo Rosales. On October 20, 2010, Enrique Pitta of Oakland Park, Florida invited Mr. Rosales aboard his boat to go diving for lobster. The method of diving selected was not the traditional scuba tank, but, a Brownie's Third Lung Hookah System. The Hookah System supplies air to the diver from above the surface by a gas powered motor. Mr. Rosales was unfamiliar with the Hookah System and drowned leaving behind a wife and two small children.

The complaint alleges Pitta was negligent and responsible for Mr. Rosales' death due to his failure to:

  • Provide a reasonably safe dive plan;
  • Conduct the dive in a reasonably safe manner;
  • Properly maintain Brownie's Third Lung Hookah System;
  • Properly operate the Brownie's Third Lung Hookah System;
  • Properly warn the dangers associated with the "hookah" from of diving; and,
  • Make sure prior to the dive that he was qualified to participate in the dive.
The estate and family seek compensation for the wrongful death in the form of lost earnings, spousal/parental companionship, support, instruction, and guidance along with mental pain and suffering.

October 26, 2010

Sandals Resorts Cannot Force Scuba Diver it Abandoned in the Open Ocean to Litigate in Federal Court

Scuba Diving Injury Lawyer Attorney.jpgOn October 14, 2008, Sandals Resorts in Antigua abandoned multiple scuba divers in the open ocean for over 2 ½ hours when the resort's dive boat left the dive site. The amazing fact of this case is just 8 months prior, the exact situation occurred at the same resort. That time a British couple was abandoned in the water for 5 hours. Brais & Brais filed a claim on behalf of a diver in Miami, Florida state court against Sandals for negligence as well as the Miami, Florida based travel agency Unique Vacation who booked the vacation for its failure to warn of problems with the Sandals Antigua scuba diving operation.

After responding to the complaint, Sandals and Unique Vacations removed the case from state court to federal court. Federal court is typically more costly to plaintiffs than state court and, for this reason, favored by corporate defendants. Brais & Brais argued the statute which Sandals and Unique Vacations relied upon to remove the case does not apply when a corporation is headquartered in the state where the lawsuit was filed. Since Unique Vacations is a Florida company, Brais & Brais argued removal was improper and the case must be remanded back to the diver's chosen state court forum. The federal court agreed. The judge also found Sandals and Unique Vacations' removal lacked any objective reasonable basis as the case is clearly not removable given the statute's language and the fact Unique Vacation is a Florida corporation. Based upon this finding, and even though we took this case on a contingency basis, the Court found Sandals & Unique Vacations liable for reasonable attorney's fees for Brais & Brais' time associated with preparing the legal memoranda required for remanding the case. Click here to read the federal court's order.

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August 31, 2010

Boat Operator Guilty of Running Over Scuba Diver

images.jpgThe Associated Press reported that a Stuart, Florida Judge found a boat operator guilty of running over a scuba diver which severed the diver's legs. The Palm Beach Gardens scuba diver was struck by boat propellers while diving about 4 miles north of the St. Lucie Inlet in January 2009. The diver testified he tried to get the boat operator's attention by waving a spear gun above the surface, but no one acknowledged his signal. He then tried to swim out of the boat's way, but the propeller struck his tank and legs. Judge Kathleen Roberts found the boat operator violated navigational rules, and sentenced him to six months probation on a misdemeanor charge.

Divers are routinely run over in the crowded waters of South Florida. The cause for such accidents is often times boat operators' and/or the divers' ignorance of navigational and diving rules. Below we explain some of the more common navigable rules applicable to dive situations.

Common Navigational Rules Applicable to Diving Situations

Displaying a "Diver Down" Flag

First and foremost, divers are required to display a "diver down" flag when in the water. When diving in state waters, the diver need only display the well known red flag with a diagonal white strip. Florida law states the minimum size for any diver down flag displayed on a buoy or float towed by the diver is 12 inches by 12 inches. The minimum size for any diver down flag displayed from a vessel or structure is 20 inches by 24 inches. If the diver down flag is displayed from a vessel, it must be displayed from the highest point or such other location which provides that the visibility of the flag is not obstructed in any direction. The diver down flag must be lowered once all divers are aboard or ashore. Furthermore, no person may operate a vessel displaying a diver down flag unless the vessel has one or more divers in the water.

When the vessel is not under command, Federal law requires an Alpha flag not less than 1 meter in height be displayed. Federal law also requires measures be taken to ensure the Alpha flag can be visible without obstruction.

Staying Near the "Diver Down" Flag

Florida Law also requires divers to make reasonable efforts to stay within 100 feet of the diver down flag while diving in rivers, inlets and navigation channels and 300 feet of the diver down flag in all waters other than rivers, inlets and navigation channels.

Maintaining a Safe Speed Near a Dive Flag

Florida law imposes upon boat operators on waters other than rivers, inlets or navigation channels to make reasonable efforts to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from a diver down flag. Any vessel other than law enforcement or rescue vessels that approaches within 100 feet of a diver down flag on a river, inlet, or navigation channel, or within 300 feet of a diver down flag on waters other than a river, inlet, or navigation channel, must proceed no faster than is necessary to maintain headway and steerageway.

Keeping a Lookout

Federal law requires every vessel at all times to maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.

Liability for Failing to Follow Navigable Rules

As we saw with the above case, there are criminal implications for failing to follow navigational rules. There are also civil ramifications. As these navigational rules are designed for safety, violation of them provide the injury party with the rebuttable presumption that the violation caused the injured. To overcome this presumption, the boat operator must not only prove that the violation did not cause the accident, but could not have caused the accident--something very hard to do.

Potential Damages

Divers injured due to boat operators' violation of navigational rules are entitled to fair and adequate compensation for damages experienced in the past and to be likely experienced in the future. Such damages include:

  • Any bodily injury resulting in pain and suffering, disability or physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience, the loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life;
  • The expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment; and,
  • Any earnings for work time lost.