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Judge Orders Insurer to Pay Miami Beach Drowning Victims’ Family Members $5.75 Million for Florida Wrongful Death

12 years after jazz guitarist Zachary Breaux drowned while trying to rescue swimmer Eugenie Poleyeff, a US District Judge has ordered Monticello Insurance Co. to pay $5 million in damages to the musician’s wife and $750,000 to Poleyeff’s family. The insurer had refused to pay the Florida wrongful death settlements the city of Miami Beach had negotiated with the two families. According to the Breaux family’s Miami Beach wrongful death lawsuit, there were no warning flags indicating that there were dangerous rip currents in the water on February 20, 1997 when the 36-year-old jazz guitarist entered the water to try saving the 66-year-old woman. Workers at the beach who looked as if they were lifeguards were actually employed by private beach concessionaires. Breaux’s wife and three young daughters saw him drown. According to the Florida wrongful death lawyer for Poleyeff’s husband, Eugenie would never have gone swimming if the city had warned her that there were rip currents and no lifeguards on duty. The wrongful death case sparked a 2005 ruing by the Florida Supreme Court that held cities responsible for warning beach goers when it is too dangerous to go in the water. Following this decision and the insurer’s refusal to defend Miami Beach, city officials reached Florida wrongful death settlements with the victims’ families. Monticello wanted to the court to find that the policy didn’t cover the city of Miami Beach. The court found the insurance company’s refusal to defend the city was wrongful. In a state known for its fabulous beaches it is important that parties who oversee the numerous areas of beachfront properly warn swimmers of dangerous conditions. Failure to exercise this duty of care can be grounds for a Florida drowning accident lawsuit citing premises liability and alleging negligence or a wrongful death complaint. Court Denies Insurer, Upholds $5.75 Million in Miami Beach Drownings, Insurance Journal, December 16, 2009 Related Web Resources: City of Miami Beach, Florida

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