24 February 2016

3 Sisters Awarded $1.8M in Beach Garage Beating

By: Celia Ampel, Daily Business Review

Park One of Florida LLC didn’t keep a watchful eye on security footage at a South Beach parking garage — and the company let everyone know that, Miami attorneys argued in a premises liability trial.

“Video Not Continuously Monitored” read a sign in the 1041 Collins Ave. garage where three sisters were beaten unconscious in November 2007. The garage is a block from the Ocean Drive tourist strip.

That sign helped Stabinski & Funt attorneys Daniel Caine and Daniel Grissom win the sisters a $1.79 million verdict against Park One on Feb. 5 for the physical and psychological trauma they said they endured because of the attack.

“I just think it’s pretty amazing the disregard that Park One had for their customers,” Caine said.

Sisters Samantha, Selene and Helen Rankin were heading back to their car around 2:30 a.m. after a night out in South Beach. In the garage elevator, they made small talk with a group of about five men and women who were holding drinks from a nearby bar.

One man offered Samantha Rankin, then 26, a sip of his drink. When she accepted, one of the women in the group angrily accused her of flirting with the man.

As the sisters stepped out of the elevator, Selene Rankin, then 24, flipped the strangers the middle finger.

“The next thing she knows she was being punched in the head, her hair was being pulled, and she was being dragged back into the elevator and attacked by the entire group,” Grissom said.

Samantha Rankin and Helen Rankin, then 20, turned around to help their sister. All three were beaten unconscious.

Someone leaving the garage saw the fight and stepped out of his car with a baseball bat. The assailants scattered, escaping down the stairwell with Helen Rankin’s purse. They were never caught.

Selene Rankin suffered the most serious injuries, her lawyers said. She suffered a lumbar herniation and became addicted to the pain medication she was prescribed. Her addiction spiraled out of control, she lost her job, and she spent time in a rehabilitation facility, Grissom said. In rehab, the middle sister showed signs of multiple personality disorder, a rare post-traumatic psychological condition.

“The person just gets to a point where they cannot handle the trauma and the stress from an event, and they develop alternate personalities to help them cope with the trauma,” he said, adding the woman attempted suicide several times. The case took years to get to trial partially because she was in such bad shape.

Samantha Rankin, an Army veteran, had never been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder before the assault. But afterward, a Veterans Affairs hospital and a private practitioner found she had PTSD partially caused by the attack, Caine said. She became hypervigilant and had insomnia and depression.

The assailants broke a bone in her hand and knocked out some teeth, leaving three dead nerves in her mouth.

Helen Rankin didn’t claim any psychological damage from the attack, but her nose was broken and her ankle and neck were sprained.

The sisters sued garage owner Ocean Blvd II LLC and Park One, which managed the garage’s day-to-day operations. Ocean Blvd settled for $150,000. Neither company is affiliated with the garage anymore.

Crime Scene

At Park One’s trial, the sisters’ attorneys told jurors the company should have known it needed to bump up security to protect its customers.

“This garage had had 31 separate criminal incidents in the 22 months prior to this assault,” Caine said.

Cameras in the elevator were never hooked up, and there were no security guards in the garage, he said. An alleyway door was supposed to be locked to outsiders, but it was broken.

Park One argued security was adequate and it could not have prevented this attack.

“They argued Selene was the catalyst of the fight because she flipped them the bird as she left the elevator,” Caine said.

Park One attorney Diane Tutt of Conroy Simberg in Hollywood and Brian Keif of the Law Offices of Hugh Behan in Miami, who represented Park One insurer Zurich North America, did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

The sisters prevailed, with the jury finding Park One 95 percent liable for the attack and awarding Selene Rankin $1.32 million, Samantha Rankin $346,000 and Helen Rankin $215,000.

The award was reduced to $1.79 million to account for Selene Rankin’s 5 percent liability.

Caine and Grissom said they plan to ask Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas for attorney fees and costs because Park One rejected the sisters’ pretrial settlement proposals for amounts smaller than the verdict.

Caine said he was pleased the jury held Park One responsible for the attack.

“They were the eyes, ears and 24/7 presence at the garage,” he said.

Case: Samantha Rankin et al v. Park One of Florida LLC

Case no.: 10-62143 CA 20

Description: Premises liability

Filing date: Dec. 7, 2010

Verdict date: Feb. 5, 2016

Judge: Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas

Plaintiffs attorneys: Daniel Caine and Daniel Grissom, Stabinski & Funt, Miami

Defense attorneys: Brian Keif, Law Offices of Hugh Behan, Miami, and Diane Tutt, Conroy Simberg, Hollywood

Verdict amount: $1.79 million

Read more: http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202750554662/3-Sisters-Awarded-18M-in-Beach-Garage-Beating#ixzz41C3fOTHw

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