A man in Rochester Hills, Michigan, was running a standard errand. He took his car to the dealership to have his oil changed. While he sat in the lobby waiting for his car, there was an accident in the shop. A mechanic drove the car into another mechanic, killing him.

Two years later, the car owner faces a $15 million lawsuit for the accident he had nothing to do with.

Why is he liable? And ultimately, who will be responsible for the terrible accident?

Related: How Do You Sue for Wrongful Death?

What Went Wrong in the Auto Shop?

In March 2020, a man brought his car in for an oil change and handed his keys over to the Rochester Hills Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership. He sat in the waiting room while the dealership took the car into the shop for service. At some point, a 19-year-old mechanic got behind the wheel of the man’s vehicle, and tragedy occurred.

“He starts the car, removes his foot from the clutch, and you know what happens? The Jeep jumps and kills my client,” recounts David Femminineo, the attorney representing the family of the man who died.

The young mechanic made a mistake which caused the car to move forward and hit another mechanic, 42-year-old Jeffrey Hawkins who died instantly. It was later reported that the young mechanic didn’t know how to drive a stick-shift vehicle and had no license, according to a report by Fox 13.

Now, two years later, the Hawkins family is fighting for damages as a result of the accident. They are suing for $15 million. But, the defendant isn’t the person who caused the accident or the owner of the dealership.

The defendant in the case is the owner of the car.

Related: 5 Reasons to Contact a Car Accident Lawyer After a Crash 

How Are the Mechanic’s Family Seeking Justice?

The owner of the car was seated in the waiting room when the accident occured, but Michigan law holds him responsible for what happened and potentially liable for $15 million in damages.

According to Michigan law, when someone is injured or killed and a vehicle is involved, the owner of the car is responsible, as reported by Fox 2.

While it may seem like the dealership or the driver of the car should be responsible, Michigan law makes it impossible for the victim’s family to sue them because the accident happened at work and involved two employees. In Michigan, an injured coworker cannot sue the boss because of the boss’ negligence. The family cannot sue the dealership or driver for wrongful death, so they are exercising another option.

The family sued the owner of the vehicle. Michigan state law says the owner of a car is responsible for the acts of anyone driving their car. The car owner’s insurance company has already paid out $100,000, and the Hawkins family is seeking an additional $15 million.

But, it doesn’t mean the driver will have to pay.

Related: Workplace Accidents: Is It Workers’ Comp or Personal Injury?   

So, Who Is Legally Responsible?

The owner of the car has filed a lawsuit of his own. He has sued the owner of the dealership for indemnity, which passes responsibility for the accident back onto the dealership.

A court has determined that the car dealership is responsible for the losses or damages incurred by the driver as a result of the accident. The lawsuit puts the burden back on the dealership, meaning the dealership — not the driver — is responsible for damages in the Hawkins’ lawsuit.

As the indemnity lawsuit currently stands, the dealership will be responsible for covering the damages If the Hawkins family wins their lawsuit.

But, the driver isn’t off the hook yet.

The dealership is going to appeal the indemnity ruling. If the ruling in the case is reversed, the burden of damages would again fall back onto the owner of the car.

The wrongful death case is now headed to trial. Both the owner of the car and the dealership are fighting to avoid liability in the case. The attorney representing the dealership is now working with the owner of the car’s legal team as they both have an interest in winning the case. If the Hawkins family fails to win their case, both the owner of the car and the owner of the dealership can avoid liability in the case.

Related: How to Prove Fault in Personal Injury Case

Talk to an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

As you can see, personal injury and wrongful death cases can be complicated. Options for families to receive compensation aren’t always clear. But one thing is clear: if you had a family member injured or killed in an accident, you deserve justice.

Talk to a personal injury attorney or a wrongful death attorney if you have experienced damages or losses as a result of another party’s negligence. Discuss your case today by contacting attorney, TJ Grimaldi. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023 to see how TJ and his legal team can help you get justice for your loved one.

When police in Santa Rosa, Florida, finally caught a burglar who had broken into multiple homes, they saw he had a gunshot wound. The County Sheriff seemed to salute the shooter and encourage others to shoot at anyone who breaks into their property. Is this good advice?

Florida Sheriff Praises Person Who Shot Home Burglar

On a Wednesday night in April, a neighborhood in Pace, Florida, had a flood of break-ins. Multiple residents called to report that someone had broken into their houses. When police showed up, they pursued the culprit as he ran away, jumping over fences and continuing to break into houses.

When they finally caught the 32-year-old suspect, he was wounded. He was shot, but not by a police officer. A homeowner had shot him presumably while the burglar was on their property. No one claimed responsibility for the shooting, and the burglar was arrested.

It seems that Santa Rosa County Sheriff, Bob Johnson approved of the shooting, according to statements he made at a press conference.

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Sheriff Johnson commended the shooter, saying he or she should attend a gun safety course to “learn to shoot a lot better” and “save the taxpayers money.”

“If someone is breaking into your house, you’re more than welcome to shoot at them in Santa Rosa County. We’d prefer that you do actually,” he said.

The sheriff also encouraged other residents to take action if they find someone breaking into their house. He invited people to take the sheriff’s office gun safety course offered every other Saturday, adding, “If you take that, you’ll shoot a lot better, and hopefully, you’ll save the taxpayers money.”

It begs the question: is it legal to shoot someone who breaks into your house, whether or not the local sheriff told you to?

Related: The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys Have These 7 Qualities

What Happens if You Shoot a Burglar on Your Property in Florida?

In the burglar shooting, it appears that no homeowner wanted to admit that they shot the culprit. Even after the sheriff’s encouraging words, no one came forward to take responsibility. It seems that whoever shot the burglar didn’t want to face any potential attention or consequences for their actions.

Without knowing the full details of what happened, we can’t know if what the shooter did would leave them in legal trouble. But, we can look at Florida laws to see what laws relate to the incident.

Florida Statute 776.031 outlines the use or threatened use of force in defense of property. It says a person is not permitted to use deadly force to prevent trespass. But, it also says a person is justified in “using or threatening to use deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

According to this part of Florida law, it may be lawful to shoot someone if they break into your property and you believe they are going to commit a felony.

Another Florida law also relates to the situation.

Under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, individuals can use deadly force as a means to protect themselves without first retreating from the threat. Florida Statute 776.012 says, “The use of deadly force is justifiable when a person is resisting any attempt to murder such person or to commit any felony upon him or her or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person shall be.”

According to this part of Florida law, it may be lawful to shoot someone if they break into your property and you believe they are going to murder you or someone else.

Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer

So, Is It Legal to Shoot an Intruder?

While Santa Rosa County Sheriff Johnson may have encouraged homeowners to shoot people on their property, it may not be as cut and dry as he made it sound.

If a person is in their home and feels that they have a reasonable fear of imminent death, danger, or bodily harm from an intruder or if they believe the intruder is about to commit a felony, the homeowner may be able to shoot and kill a person and not face any legal consequences.

But, it isn’t always a sure thing.

If you shoot someone, you would need to prove that you thought the intruder was going to commit a felony or harm you. Also, if you shoot an intruder in the back, you may not be able to use the “Stand Your Ground” law.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Work with a Criminal Defense

Even if you shoot someone in self defense, you should still talk to a criminal defense attorney. Cases are rarely as cut and dry as they seem. An experienced attorney can protect your rights and ensure that you get the most fair and just outcome possible.

For criminal defense legal support, schedule a time to talk to TJ Grimaldi today. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023.

What was supposed to be a fun night for Missouri teens on spring break in Florida turned into a tragedy when 14-year-old Tyre Sampson fell from his seat on a FreeFall amusement park ride and died.

Now, as the parents and the state of Florida try to make sense of the terrible accident, Sampson’s parents are moving forward with legal action. Sampson’s parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

What Went Wrong on the FreeFall Ride?

In Orlando’s ICON Park stands FreeFall. Referred to as the “world’s tallest drop tower,” the ride rises to 400 feet in the air before dropping passengers on a freefall. It is a relatively new ride that opened in December 2021.

On March 24, 14-year-old Tyre Sampson wanted to take a ride on FreeFall. The teen was visiting Florida while on spring break with a friend’s family. He took a seat on FreeFall, and no one stopped him — even though they should have.

The ride’s operating manual says the maximum passenger weight for the ride is 286. Samson stood at 6 feet, 5 inches and reportedly weighed 360 pounds.

He should not have been allowed on the ride, and according to reports, the ride should not have operated without his seat being secure.

But, the ride took off.

On the ride’s descent, Sampson fell from his seat and was tragically killed.

Related: Examples of Wrongful Death Cases: Do You Have a Case?   

The Findings from Florida’s State Investigation

After the tragic event, the state of Florida hired the forensics company, Quest Engineering to determine what went wrong on the ride. Released on April 18, 2022, the report indicated that “manual adjustments” were one of the factors that contributed to the accident, as reported by Fox 35 in Orlando.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner, Nikki Fried shared some of the findings during a press conference:

“The report confirms that manual adjustments had been made to the sensor for the seat in question that allowed the harness’ restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraint’s opening range.

These misadjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate – improperly satisfying the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms — that allowed the ride to operate even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat.”

One week after the state’s report was released, Sampson’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Related: How Do You Sue for Wrongful Death? 

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed by Sampson’s Family

The 65-page wrongful death civil lawsuit was filed in Orange County’s Ninth Judicial Circuit Court on behalf of Sampson’s parents, Nekia Dodd and Yarnell Sampson, and Sampson’s estate.

According to Fox 35 in Orlando, the lawsuit names the owners and manufacturers of the Orlando FreeFall ride, the operators of ICON Park which is the amusement park where the ride is located, and the construction company that built the ride.

The wrongful death suit alleges that the defendants:

  • Failed to follow ride’s safety guidelines
  • Failed to ensure Sampson was properly secured before the ride took off
  • Failed to post warnings about height and weight restrictions
  • Failed to install adequate restraints systems

The lawsuit requests trial by jury and seeks an unknown amount of damages. It states that Sampson “had a long and prosperous life in front of him that was cut short by this tragic event.”

How to Prove Fault in a Wrongful Death Case

Attorneys representing Sampson’s family will now seek to prove in court that the accident should never have happened and that the named defendants are to blame.

To prove fault in a personal injury case, attorneys in Sampson’s case must prove four things.

  1. Negligence: Attorneys must show that that accident was caused because one or more people or businesses were aware of an unsafe condition and failed to act to make it safe.
  2. Causation: Attorneys must show that the proven negligence was the direct cause of the accident. The accident only happened because of the negligence.
  3. Damages: Attorneys must show that damages were caused as a result of the accident. Damages can be monetary (such as cost of funeral, loss of potential income, etc.) and non-monetary (such as emotional trauma, loss of companionship, etc.).
  4. Breach of Duty: Attorneys must show that the defendant or defendants had a duty to provide a safe condition for the plaintiff.

The Sampson family lawsuit was filed on April 25, 2022, and no court dates have been set as of now. The Sampson family will seek to get their day in court and find justice for their son.

Related: 6 of the Most Commonly Asked Questions About Personal Injury 

Seeking Justice in Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Cases

If you or someone you love was injured in an accident, you deserve justice. Talk to a personal injury or wrongful death attorney about how you can hold parties accountable for negligence that resulted in an accident or damages.

See if you have a case worth fighting for. Schedule a time to talk to TJ Grimaldi today. To talk to TJ, schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023.

Celebrity divorces can be complicated. When two stars begin breaking up their assets and airing their grievances in front of a huge public audience, it can get messy. In the case of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, it can get messy and expensive.

Depp is suing Heard for $50 million. What led to this case, and what needs to happen for Depp to win?

What Led Up to The Lawsuit?

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard were married in February 2015 and confirmed that they were breaking up in May 2016.

During their breakup, there was a lot of public speculation about the troubled nature of their relationship. There were multiple stories about alleged abuse — one included a broken bottle and Depp losing a piece of his finger. Shortly after filing for divorce, Heard was granted a protective order when she alleged that Depp hit her in the face with a cellphone.

Two years later, in 2018, Heard wrote an essay for The Washington Post detailing her experience with domestic abuse.

She referred to herself as a, “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Heard’s attorneys say she wrote the essay to highlight legislation to protect domestic abuse survivors. She never mentioned Depp’s name, but due to the publicity around the alleged abuse in their marriage, many assumed the article was about Depp.

The article led to Depp’s $50 million libel lawsuit against Heard and then Heard’s $100 countersuit against Depp.

Why Is Johnny Depp Suing Amber Heard?

Depp says the article ruined his reputation and made it difficult for him to get work. Depp says he was dropped from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise four days after the op-ed was published. He says he was also later removed from the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

Depp filed the defamation lawsuit in Fairfax County, Virginia. The case is being heard in this location because The Washington Post’s online editions are published through servers in that county.

This case isn’t the first lawsuit that Depp has filed in response to allegations against him. Depp sued Heard for libel in the United Kingdom two years again. The case failed.

He also sued News Group Newspapers, which publishes The Sun, after they published an article calling him a “wife beater” in a 2018. The judge ruled against Depp. They said the paper had presented substantial evidence to show that Depp was violent against Heard on at least 14 occasions.

Depp’s latest libel case against Heard began this week with opening statements and witness testimony, including testimony from Depp.

Related: What Does It Take to Be an Attorney for a High-Profile Case? 

What Is Libel?

Libel is a type of defamation. Defamation is defined as someone making a false statement about someone’s character to a third party. It is considered libel when the statement is made through writing, such as published in a newspaper, blog, social media, etc. It is considered slander when the statement is made through oral statements.

In Depp’s case, he is alleging defamation through libel because Heard published statements about him in a newspaper.

To win a defamation case, the plaintiff must show:

  • There were false statements made by the defendant.
  • The false statements were shared publicly.
  • Damage or harm was caused to the plaintiff as a result of the statements.

In this civil case, Depp must show that Heard’s statements were false, the statements were shared with the public, and the statements caused him financial damage.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

What Happened During the Trial So Far?

The trial started with opening statements. Heard’s attorneys said Depp is seeking revenge. He is abusing alcohol and other substances, and his abuse against Heard was physical, emotional and psychological.

Depp’s legal team is bringing on witnesses to show the other side of these statements. Entertainment Tonight reports witnesses that include: Depp’s sister and personal manager, Christi Dembrowski; Depp’s longtime friend and neighbor, Isaac Baruch; Heard’s former personal assistant, Kate James; Depp’s personal doctor, Dr. David Kipper; and Depp’s nurse, Debbie Lloyd.

The couple’s therapist, Laurel Anderson, also shared video testimony saying the abuse appeared to be “mutual,” but that Heard seemed to fight back as a defense and that Heard showed her bruises in a private session.

Depp took the stand for three hours of testimony in which he said the allegations against him are “not based in any species of truth.”

The trial will continue, and Heard is expected to take the stand in the coming days.

Find an Attorney You Can Trust

In any type of legal battle, you need an attorney you can trust. If you are facing legal challenges, talk to an attorney about how they can best represent your interests and guide you toward the best possible outcome.

If you are facing a civil or criminal case, talk to experienced attorney, TJ Grimaldi. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 to schedule your call with TJ today.

When two drivers encountered each other on the narrow and quiet streets of St. Petersburg’s Historic Old Northeast neighborhood, no one would have guessed it would have led to road rage, a shooting, and the death of one man.

Now, a trial has finally started almost three years later to determine if the shooter will walk away after claiming he shot two men in self defense.

What Happened on the Road?

On March 27, 2019, Quentin Hicks, 42, was driving a black convertible BMW while in town visiting from California. He was on his way to see his father and in his front passenger seat was Tyler Oliverbrooks Acker, now 34.

The two were driving through the narrow streets of St. Petersburg’s Historic Old Northeast neighborhood when Acker says they thought they had the right-of-way and drove through an intersection. At that time, they were cut off by a Blue Hyundai Santa Fe driven by William Shutt, now 34. The BMW turned down a street and then the car driven by Shutt appeared again and began to taunt them.

According to reports, Hicks and Shutt then pulled up next to each other at the same intersection.

Acker and Shutt have different accounts of what happened next.

Shutt’s attorney, Roger Futerman, says the two men in the BMW yelled at his client. According to a story by the Tampa Bay Times, Futerman said Hicks yelled, “I’m going to f – – king kill you,” at Shutt, and that Acker yelled, too.

Shutt says he thought Hicks reached down to grab something. Shutt assumed Hicks was reaching for a gun. That’s when Shutt fired his own gun, shooting both Hicks and Acker. Hit by the bullet, Hicks drove through the intersection and crashed into a tree. He died on the scene while Acker suffered a gunshot to his leg.

Acker denies Shutt’s claims. He says he and Hicks didn’t yell and that their hands were clearly visible the entire time.

An Arrest One Week Later

It took one week for Shutt to be arrested for the shooting. He was charged with second-degree murder and attemped second-degree murder, and he has been held without bail at the Pinellas County jail since his arrest in April 2019. His trial began this week.

In opening statements, Prosecutor Elizabeth Traverso pointed to the careless, remorseless way that Shutt handled himself after the shooting. She said Shutt didn’t call 911 after the incident. He didn’t tell his girlfriend. Instead, evidence shows he searched for information about countries that didn’t allow extradition back to the United States, according to reports by the Tampa Bay Times.

Police say that during their investigation, they found that Shutt had stockpiled weapons. He also saved videos and articles about mass shootings and murder. A search warrant says that Shutt also confessed to another shooting in an antique store in Delaware.

Shutt also had a record of careless driving. Just five days prior to the shooting, Shutt was cited for careless driving after causing a crash. According to a story by 10 Tampa Bay, he was also cited for reckless driving in 2018.

Despite the evidence against him, Shutt and his attorneys are claiming that he acted in self defense. Will it work?

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

How To Prove Self Defense

In Florida, laws protect people who use deadly force when they feel their life is threatened.

Often referred to as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, Florida Statute 776.012 says:

“A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.”

Florida Statute 782.02 also addresses self defense. It reads:

“The use of deadly force is justifiable when a person is resisting any attempt to murder such person or to commit any felony upon him or her or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person shall be.”

In self defense cases, a criminal defense attorney can argue that a defendant’s life was threatened, and they acted with deadly force to protect themself. To prove their case, Shutt’s attorney will need to prove that Shutt felt that Hicks and Acker were planning to take Shutt’s life before he took Hicks.

If Shutt fails to prove his claim, he could face life in prison.

The trial will continue this week.

Related: The Best Criminal Defense Attorneys Have These 7 Qualities

Talk to an Attorney You Can Trust

Facing any type of criminal charge is serious, and you need an attorney you can trust by your side. If you need legal advice about a criminal charge against you, talk to an experienced attorney right away to ensure that you get the most just and fair outcome possible.

If you need assistance, contact TJ Grimaldi today. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 to schedule a call and discuss your case directly with TJ.

While coming around the track in first place, the last thing high school student Nathan Carter expected was to get punched. But, that’s what happened at a high school track meet last week.

Carter was knocked to the ground and out of first place. So now, we are asking who — if anyone — is going to face consequences for a teen getting punched in what should be a safe space for high school competition?

What Happened on the Track?

Carter was leading in a 1,600-meter race at the Tohopekaliga Tiger Invitational in Kissimmee, Florida, when he found the track partially blocked by another student who was not involved in the race. According to reports of the incident, Carter first passed the student and told him to move. During the next lap, Carter bumped or pushed the student out of the way as he passed.

On Carter’s next lap around the track, the student on the sidelines ran up to him and punched him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. The punch was captured on camera, and you can clearly see the student run up to Carter and hit him from behind.

It was later reported that Carter suffered a concussion from the punch.

What Didn’t Happen on the Track?

Police were called to the scene, but no criminal charges were filed that day.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) said that neither family wanted to press charges, according to a report by TMZ. At the time, the Florida High School Athletic Association and Orange County Public Schools said they were reviewing the situation for potential disciplinary actions.

But now, Carter’s family says they were misled and that’s why they did not initially press charges.

Legal representation for the Carter family says they did not initially press charges because police told them their son would also be arrested and charged with battery for pushing the student who hit him. Now that they know their options, the family may take action against both the boy who hit Carter and the officials running the event.

“If this event hired proper officials to help run this track meet, they could have prevented this,” says the Carter family attorney.

“They could have prevented the CC athlete from standing on the track during the first turn. Or they could have moved the CC athlete after the first lap incident. Or they could have moved the CC athlete before the second lap incident. Or they could have stopped the CC athlete before he chased [my client] down and sucker-punched him. They had many opportunities to prevent this and failed to do so.”

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

What Charges Could Be Filed?

The Carter family could proceed with both criminal and/or civil charges.

Criminal Battery Charges

Criminal charges could be filed against the boy who hit Carter. Under Florida law, striking a person and causing them harm is considered battery. Battery is defined under Florida Statute 784.03. It can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor battery can come with penalties of:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Up to one year on probation
  • Up to $1,000 in fines

Felony battery is a more severe charge and often used if the incident led to lasting physical harm to the victim. It can come with penalties of:

  • Up to five years in jail
  • Up to five years on probation
  • Up to $5,000 in fines

The incident is on tape so the Carters have proof that the student punched Carter. Carter sustained a concussion so it meets the standard of misdemeanor battery.

Civil Personal Injury Charges

Civil charges could also be filed against the boy who hit Carter. In Florida, you can sue for personal injury if someone’s negligence or recklessness causes injury and damages. Since Carter sustained a concussion from the punch, his legal team could sue for personal injury to collect funds to pay for financial losses (such as medical bills) and/or special compensation damages (such as loss of income, cost of altered plans, and emotional trauma).

The Carter family could also seek personal injury compensation from the organizers of the event. They could argue that event organizers failed to live up to their responsibility to provide a safe environment and that their negligence led to Carter’s injury and damages.

Criminal Assault Charges

The boy who hit Carter could also pursue legal action. Since Carter tried to physically push the boy off the track, a legal team could argue that Carter engaged in simple assault. Assault is defined under Florida Statute 784.011 as an “intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.” It would be more difficult to prove than Carter’s case, but it could happen.

At the time of writing this article, neither family has officially pursued legal action.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Get Representation for a Criminal or Civil Case

Being involved in a criminal or civil legal action is serious. Make sure you have an attorney by your side who can guide you through the process and help you get the best possible outcome. If you have pending legal charges against you, don’t delay. Talk to an experienced attorney today.

Request your consultation with TJ Grimaldi or call 813-226-1023 today to schedule your intro meeting.

By now, most Americans have heard the biggest story of the 2022 Oscars. Will Smith walked on stage and slapped Chris Rock across the face. Nothing like this has ever happened in the 92-year history of the Oscars, and the incident left people with many questions.

But, one of the most consequential questions is: Could Will Smith face legal charges for slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars?

What Led Up to Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock?

The shocking incident happened fast.

Chris Rock took the stage to introduce the nominees for Best Documentary. He began with a few jokes. One joke referred to Smith’s wife Jada’s short hairstyle. Jada Smith was visibly upset by the joke. She has been vocal about how having alopecia has affected her hair loss.

At first, Will Smith appeared to laugh at the joke but then moments later, he walked on stage in what seemed to be a joke at first and slapped Rock across the face.

Rock looked stunned. Will returned to his seat where he yelled to Rock, “Keep my wife’s name out of you f***ing mouth.” Rock rebounded, said he would, and continued on to the award.

The incident set a new tone in the theater, yet Smith was not approached by security or asked to leave. Later in the evening, he returned to the stage to accept an Oscar for Best Actor.

At the time, it seemed like Smith was facing no consequences for his action. But, could he?

What Criminal Charges Could Will Smith Face?

The incident happened in Los Angeles so it would fall under California state laws.

In California, the incident would be considered a battery charge. Battery is the intentional act of force or violence against another person. It is defined under Cal. Penal Code § § 240, 242.

In most cases, battery charges in California are classified as a misdemeanor, but they can be charged as a felony at the prosecutor’s discretion. It’s likely that the Smith case would be classified as a misdemeanor as it doesn’t meet the qualifications often associated with felony battery (such as an assault on a police officer or public worker).

Charges could be more severe depending on the level of Rock’s injury. Battery causing serious bodily injury can lead to longer jail time.

At this time, it doesn’t appear that Rock has any serious injuries so if Smith were to face charges, he would likely face a simple battery charge.

Battery in California could be punishable by:

  • Up to six months in county jail
  • Fine up to $2,000
  • Probation up to six months

So, will Smith face charges?

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Could Will Smith Face Criminal Charges?

There is clear evidence that Smith hit Rock. It was broadcast live to roughly 16.6 million viewers.

But, that doesn’t necessarily mean Smith will face charges.

Rock has declined to press charges or file a police report. Rock’s participation is not required to file charges against Smith, but Rock’s lack of interest in pursuing legal action likely means no case will be opened.

The Los Angeles Police Department says it is aware of the incident but was not pursuing any other action.

Defense lawyer Alan Jackson, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor who oversaw high-profile cases, told ABC News why the state will likely not investigate the case further.

“Would they ever in a practical world do that when Chris Rock is saying, ’I won’t cooperate with a criminal investigation?’ Not in a million years. LAPD is probably breathing a relative sigh of relief that they don’t have to get involved with two high-profile actors duking it out on a world stage,” said Jackson.

While it remains to be seen if the Los Angeles city attorney’s office will decide to bring charges against Smith, it seems unlikely at this time.

Related: What to Ask During a Free Consultation with a Lawyer

Could Chris Rock File a Civil Case Against Will Smith?

In cases where a person is assaulted, the victim may have an option to sue for personal injury in civil courts. There does not need to be criminal charges to pursue a personal injury case.

Rock could technically file a personal injury case against Smith, but it is also highly unlikely.

Rock has already said that he is not pressing charges in the criminal matter so it is unlikely that he would pursue a civil case. Also, to secure a win in a civil personal injury case, Rock would need to prove that he experienced damages as a result of the incident. At this time, it does not appear that Rock was seriously injured or sustained any type of meaningful damages.

But, like potential criminal charges against Smith, civil charges could happen. Time will tell, but it’s unlikely to happen.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Talk to an Attorney If Facing Criminal or Civil Charges

Potential criminal charges and civil charges can lead to serious consequences. If you or someone you know has been charged in either court, talk to an experienced attorney right away.

Even if you have been involved in an incident and charges aren’t filed yet, it’s still important to talk to an attorney and start a legal strategy right away. Talk to TJ Grimaldi about the details of your situation with a free consultation. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today

Drawbridge Accident

(Royal Park Bridge Not Pictured)

It seemed like a tragic accident. While 79-year-old Carol Wright was crossing a bridge in West Palm Beach, the drawbridge began to rise. Wright tried to cling to the bridge, but she couldn’t hold on and fell to death.

Now, new details reveal that the tragic accident could have been prevented, and the person in charge of managing the drawbridge may pay the consequences. Bridgetender, Artissua Lafay Paulk is being criminally charged in the death of Carol Wright.

What Happened on the Bridge?

Artissua Lafay Paulk is a bridgetender in charge of the Royal Park Bridge in West Palm Beach. A bridgetender is responsible for confirming that a bridge is clear of vehicles and people before it rises.

But on February 6, 2022, Paulk began to raise the bridge while Carol Wright was in the middle of crossing it.

Wright was walking her bicycle across the bridge. She legally and lawfully entered the bridge and was about roughly ten feet past the barrier arms when it started to rise. A bystander tried to help Wright. She clung to the side of the bridge, but ultimately, Wright fell and died on the scene.

The role of a bridgetender is to ensure such a tragedy doesn’t occur. Their roles require them to follow specific safety protocols. According to West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachle, bridgetenders are responsible for “lowering of the gates for the vehicles, lowering of the gates for the pedestrians, and making several visual confirmations that there is nobody at either of the spans or past those gates.”

Paulk told police she followed safety procedures. A Florida Department of Transportation report said Paulk claimed she walked out on the balcony multiple times before and after turning on the red lights and lowering the gate to stop traffic and making two announcements on loudspeakers.

Attorney Lance Ivey, who represents Wright’s family, says this account is a lie, and now, evidence that shows Paulk did not follow safety protocols has led to her arrest.

Why Is Paulk Being Charged with Manslaughter?

Paulk has been charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence.

Investigators allege that Paulk did not follow safety protocols and lied about it.

After obtaining a search warrant, investigators uncovered texts between Paulk and her supervisor that were deleted. The text messages show that Paulk lied to investigators.

3:20 p.m. from supervisor to Paulk: “When they talk to you make [expletive] sure you tell them you walked outside on balcony 3 diff times to make sure no one was past gates n delete this msg after one time to make sure card [sic] stop 2nd time after gates lowered and 3rd time before you raised spans ok now delete this I know ur upset but u gotta tell them step by step how u do opening” 

3:20 p.m. Paulk to supervisor: “I did” 

3:59 p.m. from supervisor to Paulk: “You have to write out step by step what you did ok up till time you were told someone fell” 

Police also uncovered another text in which Paulk told a friend, “I’m here with the police I killed a lady on the bridge.”

Paulk, who was staffed by a private state contractor, is now facing criminal charges.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

What Are the Potential Consequences?

Manslaughter is a criminal charge that is a step-below a murder charge. In a murder charge, there is intent to kill another person. In a manslaughter charge, there is no premeditation to kill another person. It is defined under Florida Statute 782.07.

In manslaughter cases, the defendant did one or more of the following.

  • Intentionally completed an act that led to the death of another person.
  • Persuaded or encouraged another person to complete an act that led to that person’s death.
  • Was culpably negligent which led to the death of another person.

In this case, the state says Paulk was culpably negligent. She did not intend to kill Wright, but her actions led to Wright’s death.

Paulk faces serious charges.

In Florida, the charge of manslaughter by culpable negligence is a second-degree felony that can result in 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and up to a $10,000 fine.

Paulk may also face civil charges as the case could qualify as a wrongful death case if Wright’s family wants to pursue civil charges.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Facing Criminal Charges Is Serious

Any time someone faces criminal charges, it is a serious situation. If you or someone close to you is facing criminal charges, make sure they have legal representation they can trust.

Find an attorney who can fight to ensure that you get the most fair and just outcome possible. If you need a criminal defense attorney, talk to TJ Grimaldi today. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.

Five years ago, actor Bill Paxton died two weeks after a surgery that was supposed to save his life. His family believes the level of care he received led to his untimely death, and they are fighting in court to prove it.

As of this month, their battle is half over. They recently won a $1 million settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit.

What Led to Bill Paxton’s Death?

According to his death certificate, Paxton was born with a form of heart disease called bicuspid aortic valve. People with the disease have only two small leaflets in the aortic valve, instead of the usual three. The defect decreases blood flow in the heart which increases the risk of aneurysm, stroke, or heart failure.

It’s estimated that 2% of the population suffers from a bicuspid aortic valve, and of the people affected by the disease, roughly a third experience complications. In February 2017, Paxton experienced complications, suffered an aortic aneurysm, and underwent valve replacement surgery.

Two weeks later, Paxton died on February 25, 2017. Complications from surgery resulted in a stroke that killed the 61-year-old actor.

One year later, Paxton’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, complications from the surgery were said to include excessive bleeding, cardiogenic shock, right ventricular dysfunction, and a compromised right coronary artery.

According to Page Six, the family alleged that healthcare providers, “misrepresented and/or concealed information relating to the risks of surgery and care that would be provided and/or failed to adequately explain the proposed treatment or procedure.”

Related: How Do You Sue for Wrongful Death?

The Details of the Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The wrongful death suit was filed by Paxton’s wife, Louise, and his children, James and Lydia.

The suit filed in February 2018 listed Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and Dr. Ali Khoynezhad, the surgeon who operated on Paxton, as defendants. Later, General Anesthesia Specialists Partnership and anesthesiologist, Dr. Moody Makar were also added to the wrongful death and negligence lawsuit.

The Paxtons allege that they were misled about the safety of the procedure performed on Paxton and about the experience of the involved doctors.

At the time of the initial filing, the attorney representing the Paxton family Bruce Broillet offered a statement, “Bill Paxton and his family trusted the physicians and staff at this medical facility but instead Cedars-Sinai betrayed their trust.”

“The surgeon’s actions resulted in this tragic and preventable death,” he added.

The family believe the surgeon used “high risk and unconventional surgical approach” during the procedure, which ultimately led to Paxton’s death. They also said Khoynezhad and Cedars-Sinai, “Failed to disclose that Khoynezhad was going to use a high risk and unconventional surgical approach with which he lacked experience and which was, based upon information and belief, beyond the scope of his privileges.”

Related: Examples of Wrongful Death Cases: Do You Have a Case?   

The Details of the Wrongful Death Settlement

Now, four years after the initial wrongful death lawsuit was filed, the Paxton family has settled with General Anesthesia Specialists Partnership and Dr. Moody Makar.

While the two defendants deny responsibility, they have settled the case as part of what they call a “business decision,” as reported by NBC News.

According to court records, the group, “contends that its personnel complied with the standard of care insofar as their involvement in the care and treatment of … Paxton, and nothing their personnel did or didn’t do caused or contributed to his death.”

Paxton’s family will receive $1 million in the settlement.

Related: 11 Examples of Medical Malpractice Cases Worth Fighting For  

Does This Mean It’s Over?

The $1 million settlement only ends half of the Paxton family’s wrongful death lawsuit. The other two defendants, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Dr. Ali Khoynezhad, are still in a legal fight.

The Paxtons are planning to go to trial where their legal team will need to prove:

  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Dr. Ali Khoynezhad were negligent in that they were aware of an unsafe condition and failed to act.
  • It was the duty of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Dr. Ali Khoynezhad to provide safe conditions.
  • The negligence of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Dr. Ali Khoynezhad directly led to Paxton’s death.
  • Paxton’s family experienced monetary or non-monetary damages as a result of Paxton’s death.

According to NBC News, a trial date for the remaining defendants in the case is scheduled for September.

Do You Have a Wrongful Death Claim Worth Fighting For?

Wrongful death cases are a type of personal injury case. They are cases where the negligence of one or more parties caused not just the injury, but the death of another party.

If someone close to you died because of the negligence of another person or company, you deserve justice. Talk to a personal injury attorney with experience in wrongful death litigation, and see if you have a case worth fighting for.

If you’d like to talk to an experienced wrongful death attorney right away, contact TJ Grimaldi. Request your free consultation to speak directly with TJ about the details of your case. Schedule your free consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.

While more and more airplane passengers are witnessing bad behavior on flights, most people would still be surprised to see their pilot get escorted off a plane by airport police. For some passengers headed to Florida from New York on March 2, 2022, they witnessed the odd sight.

Their pilot was escorted off the plane for being under the influence of alcohol.

Pulled from the Plane Before Take Off

An early morning flight leaving Buffalo, New York, heading to Ft. Laduerdale, Florida, was delayed when the pilot needed to be removed.

Just before take-off, airport police officers brought a portable breathalyzer test into the cockpit and asked the pilot to take the test.

According to a statement from Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), there was reason to believe the pilot was under the influence. While the pilot was going through security, “a TSA officer noticed that he may have been impaired.” The agent notified NFTA authorities who approached the pilot and gave him a breathalyzer.

The result revealed that the pilot had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.17.  

In New York, the legal BAC for driving is 0.08. The pilot was more than double the legal driving BAC limit of the state. But, pilots do not abide by state laws for driving under the influence. They have their own set of standards for alcohol.

Federal regulations say that pilots are not allowed to fly planes if they have a BAC of 0.04 or higher. Pilots are also prohibited from having consumed alcohol within the eight hours leading up to a flight.

Upon the results of the breathalyzer, the pilot, James Clifton, 52 of Orlando, was immediately removed from the plane and taken into custody by NFTA police.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

Did the Pilot Break the Law?

Clifton has not delivered a statement about the incident, although according to TSA spokeswoman Helen Tederous, Clifton told authorities he had between seven and eight drinks the night before the early morning flight, as reported by PEOPLE.

Clifton had a BAC over the legal limit for pilots. He is said to have had drinks the night before the morning flight, but it has not been determined if it was eight hours before the flight. According to reporting by the Tampa Bay Times, Clifton’s co-pilot said he had dinner with Clifton the night before the flight. Clifton remained at the restaurant after his co-pilot left.

NFTA removed Clifton from the plane, notified the federal authorities, and released him to JetBlue security personnel.

The airplane took off four hours later with a new pilot.

Related: What to Expect From a First Offense DUI

What Will Happen to the Pilot?

In a statement, Derek Dombrowski, a JetBlue spokesperson said, “The safety of JetBlue’s customers and crewmembers is our first priority. We adhere to all DOT rules and requirements concerning alcohol at all times and have a very strict zero tolerance internal alcohol policy.”

“We are aware of the incident that occurred in Buffalo Wednesday and are cooperating fully with law enforcement. We are also conducting our own internal investigation. The crew member involved has been removed from his duties,” the spokesperson continued.

In addition to being the subject of JetBlue’s investigation, Clifton will also be investigated by federal authorities.

TSA spokesperson Tederous said Clifton may face federal charges.

While it’s unclear at this time what charges Clifton may face, there could be a DUI equivalent. There could be other charges related to recklessness or endangerment or even potentially crimes related to attempt.

In 2002, two pilots faced serious consequences after they were stopped just minutes before taking off from Miami International Airport and found to have BAC levels over 0.08.

The men were charged with operating an aircraft under the influence and operating a motor vehicle under the influence. Three years later, both men lost their commercial pilot licenses. One man was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison and the other to 5 years in prison, as reported by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Talk to a DUI Attorney Today

No matter what type of vehicle you’re driving, getting a DUI is a serious matter.

If you have been arrested for a DUI, it’s important to talk to a DUI attorney right away. If you need advice after a DUI or a DUID, talk to attorney TJ Grimaldi today. Schedule your consultation or call 813-226-1023.