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Legal battles continue in aftermath of deadly boat crash that disabled teen soccer star

The $16 million settlement ordered late final month in the tragic 2022 Labor Day weekend boat crash that ended the life of Our Lady of Lourdes senior Luciana Fernandez and left her classmate, soccer star Katerina Puig, needing a lifetime of medical care, is only one chapter in the continuing authorized battles surrounding outstanding South Florida actual property dealer George Pino — the person on the vessel’s helm.

That judgment, in opposition to Pino’s spouse, Cecilia Pino, got here three months after George Pino reached a confidential settlement with the Puig household for an undisclosed quantity of cash that will probably be used to fund a medical belief for Katerina.

But, the April 25 order, by Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens, which enforced a settlement reached between Cecilia Pino and Katerina’s dad and mom Kathya and Rodolpho Puig, opened questions on why George Pino’s settlement is confidential, however his spouse’s is just not. And, additionally, why the couple was sued individually.

Cecilia Pino’s attorneys sought to maintain her settlement sealed for 10 years, however the Puigs objected. Sanchez-Llorens dominated in the Puigs’ favor on April 26. Part of her argument was that the continued press protection in the Miami Herald and different retailers was having a detrimental affect on State Street Realty, the corporate her husband operates and the place she works.

Both Andrew Mescolotto, the lawyer for the Pinos, and Ivan Cabrera, the Puigs’ lawyer, declined to debate the case.

Several private damage attorneys advised the Miami Herald that the way in which the civil case has performed out is just not uncommon.

Ira Leesfield, a Miami lawyer specializing in maritime legislation, defined that the events doubtless agreed out of courtroom to maintain the financial worth of George Pino’s settlement confidential, however didn’t conform to do the identical with Cecilia’s case.

And, if there’s a disagreement, the decide is probably going going to disclaim sealing the small print of the settlement, Leesfield mentioned.

“The judges don’t care if you want it confidential,” Leesfield mentioned. “If one party [wants the agreement not to be confidential], they’re going to do it.”

Stuart Grossman, the top of a significant South Florida private damage legislation agency for many years, mentioned the explanations for wanting to maintain settlements out of the general public eye fluctuate.

“It depends on the appetite, usually of the plaintiff. Some people are very sensitive about their friends and neighbors and work colleagues open to the possibility that they are worth millions,” Grossman mentioned. “Also, it depends on the appetite of the defendant not wanting it known he was able to pay millions of dollars out of pocket.”

“Either party can invoke this. Oftentimes it’s made a condition of one party,” Grossman mentioned.

George Pino was behind the wheel of a 29-foot Robolo twin 300-horsepower engine heart console boat on Sept. 4, 2022, coming back from celebrating his daughter’s 18th birthday on Elliott Key. He was along with his spouse, daughter and 11 of her teenage mates — together with Luciana Fernandez and Katerina Puig — heading again to the couple’s trip house on the unique Ocean Reef Club gated neighborhood when he rammed into a hard and fast channel marker close to Cutter Bank in the Intracoastal Waterway.

He was going about 50 mph, which is a excessive price of pace on the water, when the vessel hit the Biscayne Bay channel marker, in keeping with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the lead investigating company in the case. All 14 individuals on board have been ejected into the water. Several have been injured — Katerina and Luciana critically. Luciana died the subsequent day in the hospital. Katerina suffered blunt-force trauma to her head and is completely disabled.

Katerina ‘Katy’ Puig was seriously injured in a Sept. 4, 2022, boat crash in Biscayne Bay. She is pictured here after being named Dade Soccer Big School Player of the Year, photographed at A.D. Barnes Park in Miami, Florida on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.Katerina ‘Katy’ Puig was seriously injured in a Sept. 4, 2022, boat crash in Biscayne Bay. She is pictured here after being named Dade Soccer Big School Player of the Year, photographed at A.D. Barnes Park in Miami, Florida on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

Katerina ‘Katy’ Puig was significantly injured in a Sept. 4, 2022, boat crash in Biscayne Bay. She is pictured right here after being named Dade Soccer Big School Player of the Year, photographed at A.D. Barnes Park in Miami, Florida on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

Despite greater than 60 empty booze containers discovered on the boat when investigators hauled it out of the water, and George Pino telling an FWC officer he “had two beers,” cops nearly instantly dominated out alcohol as an element in the crash, a conclusion echoed in the ultimate prison criticism. Instead, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, going by the ultimate FWC report, charged Pino with three counts of misdemeanor careless boating final August.

George Pino has pleaded not responsible, and the prison case is pending.

Both the Puig and Fernadez households have been outraged on the minor expenses filed. The Fernandezes, in a number of statements offered to the Miami Herald since Pino was charged, identified that he advised investigators that a contributing issue to the crash was the wake thrown by a bigger boat that was coming the wrong way in the channel moments earlier than he hit the marker.

No one else on the Robolo, nor anybody on any of the opposite vessels in the realm that day, noticed that boat, in keeping with the FWC’s closing report.

Andres and Melissa Fernandez, Luciana’s dad and mom, haven’t filed any lawsuits in the aftermath of their daughter’s demise, however stay extremely crucial of the dealing with of the investigation by the FWC and State Attorney’s Office.

Luciana FernandezLuciana Fernandez

Luciana Fernandez

The household has since created a nonprofit in their daughter’s identify, the Lucy Fernandez Foundation, devoted to boating security and offering scholarships to Our Lady of Lourdes Academy.

The Puigs filed their lawsuit in opposition to George and Cecilia Pino in March 2023. Although George Pino was working the boat the day of the crash and the boat’s title is simply in his identify, each Pinos are named individually in the lawsuit.

Specifically, George Pino was sued for negligence and negligent supervision, and Cecilia was sued for negligent supervision.

Among the record of accusations in the lawsuit is that each Pinos purchased alcohol that day and allowed all of the women on the boat to drink.

The arguments in that civil case are reiterated in yet one more lawsuit that has resulted from the crash — one filed in Dade courtroom by Hudson Excess Insurance Company in February. Hudson is the corporate with which George Pino had a $500,000 extra insurance coverage coverage on his boat.

The firm’s lawsuit in opposition to Pino and the Puigs argues it’s not obliged to pay out the $500,000 coverage.

Unlike the out-of-court settlement with George Pino, his spouse agreed to a consent settlement to pay the $16 million. Sanchez-Llorens then issued her judgment requiring the fee.

“It’s like going to trial, but skipping the trial,” Miami trial lawyer Judd Rosen mentioned. “If we went to trial, the likely outcome would be $16 million.”

Rosen mentioned he believes the Puigs and Cecilia Pino, who share the identical lawyer in the case, could also be working collectively to struggle again in opposition to Hudson for denying the protection. He steered the $16 million settlement and judgment allowed each events to pursue a bad-faith motion in opposition to the insurance coverage firm.

Rosen additionally mentioned it’s typical in private damage lawsuits to go in spite of everything concerned individually, so it’s commonplace that the outcomes differed for George and Cecilia Pino.

“Technically, it’s two different cases. Two Different parties. Two different defendants,” he mentioned.

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