The mother of a 23-year-old who was killed while trying to assist a local radio DJ host free his 40-foot pleasure boat from a sandbar has filed a boating accident lawsuit against the DJ operating the boat, as well as Miami rapper Pitbull and his vodka company, which sponsored the event. Another company, Park Street Imports, is also named as a co-defendant.
In Valdez v. Mendez et al, the deceased man’s mother asserts negligence by all defendants in the incident, which occurred off Key Biscayne.
West Palm Beach boating accident lawyers recognize reckless operation of a boat can lead to tragedy, particularly where alcohol is involved.
The facts of the case are spelled out in the mother’s complaint.
There was an outdoor promotional party, intended to bolster the images of “DJ Laz” and Pitbull, as well as the vodka product. At the time of the incident, Laz (whose given name is Lazaro Mendez) was driving the promotional boat when it got stuck on a sandbar near Nixon Beach.
The 23-year-old victim was in a crowd of people attending the event on the boat, where there was dancing, music and reportedly copious amounts of the promoter’s vodka being served.
After getting stuck on the sandbar, the lawsuit states, the host should have contacted a nearby sea tow service. Instead, for reasons that aren’t exactly clear, the DJ reportedly called for invitees to help him push the boat off the sandbar. Mind you, these were individuals who had reportedly been drinking and dancing all afternoon and had little to no experience in boat maintenance.
After the victim, a recent police academy graduate, and several others jumped into the water to assist, the DJ reportedly “recklessly” engaged the throttle of the engines. The moving propellers caught the victim’s torso, and he was fatally injured. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
A representative of the victim’s family was quoted as saying he wasn’t sure “what made (DJ Laz) act so recklessly.”
The wrongful death lawsuit specifically alleges that the DJ did not have the proper training or experience to operate the large vessel. Further, the DJ failed to warn the victim of potential danger caused by the fact that he failed to cut power to the boat’s engine while he and several others were in the water trying to push it off the sandbar.
The lawsuit also accuses the vodka company sponsor of failing to provide a trained captain for the vessel, negligently entrusting the boat to someone who was inexperienced, failing to adequately supervising the operator and failing to warn the victim of hazardous conditions.
It’s additionally asserted that the DJ didn’t use the right equipment to get the boat from the sandbar and didn’t lighten the boat’s load, as he should have.
The lawsuit was filed in Dade County Court, asserts that there is no federal admirality jurisdiction over this matter because the incident occurred less than three miles from shore. Still, it would not be surprising if the remaining defendants moved to have the case moved to federal court under the Jones Act. This could potentially limit their maximum liability to the value of the vessel and its contents.
There is indication that potential criminal action may follow as well.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Valdez v. Mendez et al, May 9, 2014, 11th Judicial Circuit Court in and for Miami-Dade County
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