We have all heard the Tom Bodett, Motel 6 jingle. "We'll leave the light on for you." But, a hotel in the dark about a dangerous breakdown in their safety protocol definitely needed someone to come turn the lights on for safety of the public. A few weeks ago in a courtroom in Fort Pierce, Florida we did just that. For more than two years, the Best Western of Port St. Lucie failed to take any responsibility for an injury to Carol Burry. The injury occurred when she fell down a dark set of stairs. The stairs were dark because the hotel chose not to make sure the lights came on. This was because after a time shift from daylight savings time, the hotel failed to make adjustments to a timer for the lights on the stairs. They had this problem every time there was a time change. Additionally, there were no vending machines on the first floor. And, there was no elevator. This hotel is a two-story hotel with outside hallways and stairs that run along the doors to the rooms. In an overhead view it would look sort of like a U-shape with the opening of the U facing the pool and the office. The outside of the U would face the parking lot. The inside perimeter of the U would face a courtyard. All around the perimeter of the U are outdoor hallways and sets of stairs. Carol Burry is a grandmother and the wife of George Burry. They have two boys who are now grown. They have grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Mr. and Mrs. Burry have been married for more than 55 years. On November 9, 2009 at about 5:30 p.m. the Burrys checked into the Best Western Port St. Lucie. They were on their way to the Port of Miami on a drive down from Pennsylvania to go on a cruise. The night before they had stopped somewhere along their route and the plan was to spend one night in Port St. Lucie and then go on to Miami. The reason they were going on this cruise is because were going to be in Florida for a couple of weeks to visit with their grandson who was coming home from the military and who was stationed in Greece. The reason for his homecoming was to welcome into the world a new member of the family. This would be the Burry's first grandchild. The Burrys had a few extra days to kill because the homecoming from Greece was being delayed. They found a quick three-day cruise out of Miami that stopped in the Bahamas and in Key West. They decided to take this opportunity to see Key West because they had never been and Mrs. Burry always wanted to see the Hemingway House. Upon check-in at the Best Western, they got settled in their rooms, figured out their plans for dinner that evening and then Mr. Burry went to take a shower and Mrs. Burry left the room with the ice bucket to get ice and two sodas. At this point, it is approximately 6:00 p.m. It is three days after a time change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time, where we fall back and the days get shorter and it gets darker earlier – right when there is that drastic jump from daylight to darkness in the evenings. As Mrs. Burry is walking around the first floor of this two-story hotel she cannot find any ice or vending machines. She walks up to the front office and is directed to the second floor to the only vending machines on the property. She walks up the stairs by the office. She walks all around the second story looking for the ice and vending machines and finally finds them. After she finds vending area, purchases the two sodas and gets the ice in the bucket she starts to head back towards the room. It is now 6:00 and it is dark. Mrs. Burry is upstairs with two sodas and a bucket with ice. There is no elevator. The only way for her to get downstairs back to her room was to take the dark stairs. As she attempted to go down the dark stairs she fell injuring her ankle. The call the front desk clerk to report the injury and tell them the lights are out. The next morning, Mrs. Burry and Mr. Burry report the injury to the manager. The manager responds that the hotel has that problem every year because they forget to reset the timer for the lights after the Daylight Savings Time and Standard Time changes. Mrs. Burry ended up having an arthroscopic surgery on her ankle to repair some torn ligaments and still to this day has problems with that ankle. After the Best Western did not respond at all to Mrs. Burry's attempts to resolve the matter she was forced to bring them to court. When we investigated the hotel, we found out that, in fact, the lights were on a timer. All of the testimony for all of the employees, the manager, the front desk clerk, stated that the timer does need to be changed with time changes. Still, the hotel refused to accept any responsibility. On April 25 we took them to trial and we were able to obtain a favorable verdict for Mrs. Burry. This was a verdict that took into account the total amount of harm caused to Mrs. Burry. It also forced Best Western to accept their fair share of responsibility for Mrs. Burry's injuries. It is a rewarding feeling to know that we were able to obtain justice for and help Mrs. Burry, and as a consequence, make the hotel meet their responsibility.
A civil trial attorney with the firm Wooten & Kimbrough, P.A., Mr. Damaso concentrates on cases involving personal injury and wrongful deaths and solely represents individual victims and consumers. He takes his clients' cases personally and is committed to their best possible outcome. His strong sense of community has led to his support of numerous charities in the Orlando area.