November 10, 2010
Case: Antonio Acevedo v. GGR, LLC and Danny Gilileo
Case No.: 07-08911-CA-04
Filing date: March 28, 2007
Trial dates: September 14-22, 2010
Jury award: $16.6 million
Judge: Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Amy Steele Donner
Plaintiff attorney: Ronald D. Rodman, Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada, P.A., Miami
Defense attorneys: Frank Sioli and Daniel Cruz, Brown Sims, Miami: Philip Glatzer, Marlow Connell Abrams Adler Newman & Lewis, Miami
Details: Much damage was left behind by the busy 2005 hurricane season, and that meant work for Mexican laborer Antonio Acevedo.
Like others before him, Acevedo left his wife and newborn daughter back in Guanajuato, Mexico, for construction work in the United States. With proper immigration documents, the 23-year-old joined his two brothers in February 2006 to replace the roof at an Opa-locka warehouse.
For hours, he and others stood on top of the 86,000-square-foot building under the midday sun, tearing off layers of gravel, rubber and concrete. Unbeknownst to them, half of the 30-year-old roof was supported by only a fragile deck of rusting metal. Construction company GGR and manager Danny Gilileo hadn't allowed the workers inside the building.
Acevedo discovered the precarious support when rusted metal fractured beneath him. He fell 20 feet and slammed onto the warehouse's concrete floor, fracturing his spine and skull.
The injury left him in a coma for three months. When he awoke, he was a paraplegic and barely remembered his past or his family.
Plaintiff case: Although the incident initially began as a workers compensation claim, Acevedo's family hired attorney Ronald Rodman, who discovered the case went beyond the immunity that would have been provided to GGR and its manager.
Rodman claimed GGR and Gilileo were negligent because they knew the metal decking was compromised, posing a danger to the roofers, and they knowingly hid the problem from the laborers by keeping them out of the building.
During trial, Rodman showed photographs that had been taken of the dilapidated metal roofing deck for an insurance claim before the roof work. When Rodman questioned Gilileo on the stand, the company manager admitted he had seen the deck but hadn't closely examined it.
Rodman also contended Gilileo should have recognized the danger since the landlord had shown him its structural instability.
To show jurors the effect of the fall, Rodman had Acevedo take the stand. The attorney showed photos of a youthful Acevedo playing soccer - winning a championship in Mexico and on a mission trip with his church - but Acevedo recognized nothing. He also said he had no recollection of the fall.
Defense case: Attorneys for the company maintained the danger posed by the rusted deck was as concealed to them as it was to Acevedo, and they hid nothing. They also argued there was no proof the roof's condition meant an accident was inevitable.
Outcome: Jurors sided with Acevedo, awarding him $13.32 million for past and future damages. Because he earned about $13,000 yearly as a roofer, he received $667,648 for lost lifetime earnings. He was awarded $2.45 million for pain and suffering. His daughter, Leyti Guadalupe Acevedo, was given $156,550. In total, father and daughter were awarded $16.59 million.
Quote: "Migrant laborers are not disposable workers, and worker safety still is important to jurors. Despite the workers comp immunity changes that have been made over the years, the jury knows and can recognize when there's a bad actor," Rodman said.