Courting Disaster

Welcome to the first edition of my newest writing project: Courting Disaster. This was inspired by a column I wrote for the San Francisco Examiner back in 2001 and 2002 that looked at the odd, offbeat and just plain strange lawsuits floating through the local legal system.

Given Miami’s reputation – and Florida’s generally – I thought mining these files might bear some odd fruit. And, hoo boy, has it ever.

A couple of notes about the items you’re about to see. First, these are alleged facts. Since these are fresh filings, nothing has been proven and everything should be taken with a grain of salt…sometimes enough salt to make a cardiologist blush. Second, in keeping with the Examiner column of yore, expect a bit of snark, irony and other metaphorical eye-rolling.

So, without further ado:

The case of the maligned jail mail

John Latham vs. Aleksandra Latham – Miami Dade Circuit Civil 2019-019570 – filed July 1 Comes now John Farron Latham, an inmate at South Bay Correctional in the shadows of Lake Okeechobee, who has brought suit against his ex-wife for letters she sent him in 2016 and 2017. A strange suit, no? If HBO can be believed, mail call in prison is a joyous time.

Not, though, if the envelopes of said letters are emblazoned with words like “child molester” and “child rapist,” as Latham claims. Additionally, he says the content of some of these notes have included images (drawn by the children he shares with his ex, ouch) depicting him behind bars.

He claims the nasty grams, and the fact the envelopes were seen by corrections officers and fellow inmates, have given him severe anxiety, respiratory failure and a myocardial infarction – aka a heart attack. Though he has ceased receiving similar shout outs, he complains about this as well, saying his ex-wife’s actions have effectively cut him off from his children. He is demanding $100,000 for his pain and suffering.

On its face, that that does seem a bit mean. Prison is a tough place, and one imagines being labeled a child molester will not be instrumental in moving you up the food chain at the Gray Bar Hotel. A quick check of the criminal records, however, indicates a John Farron Latham was convicted of three counts of a sexual act with a familial child and sentenced to 25 years in prison in July 2016. Hmm. Not thinking you’re going to get too far with this one, John.

The case of the slip-and-slide juror

Maria Del Carmen Safille vs. City of Miami – Miami Dade Circuit Civil 19-19724 – filed July 1 You know how it goes. You’re walking to jury service, minding your own business, cheerfully ignoring the suspicious looking hot dog cart outside the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building when – boom! – you fall on the ground and injure yourself.

Such is the sad tale of Maria Del Carmen Safille, who is suing the city of Miami after she caught her foot in its “poorly maintained, uneven sidewalk” in March 2018 as she walked from the parking lot toward the courthouse. Though she does not detail the injuries, she claims in the suit that they were permanent and severe. No one said jury service wasn’t a sacrifice.

The case of the Booby Trap brawl

Aaron Schwartz vs. BT’s on the River – Miami Dade Circuit Civil 19-19904 – filed July 2 Booby Trap on the River has seen its share of bad press lately: a fatal shooting in January, a temporary closure by health inspectors for a fly infestation last fall and car vs. pedestrian crash outside the strip club in a few weeks prior to that.

Though the incident that gave rise to the suit didn’t appear to make the news, add in a brawl from Nov. 19 to the list of woes. Or, at least, I’m surmising it’s from last November, as the suit claims the incident happened on “November 19, 2019,” which is either a typo or the first known incidence of a “future tort” claim. Perhaps filing lawsuits about yet-to-happen injuries could be a plot device in a direct-to-video sequel of “Minority Report.” Hmm? Hollywood?

As I await a studio to option my idea, here’s the rundown of this case: Schwartz claims that while he and his friends were innocently enjoying the entertainments therein during the early morning hours, a fight broke out. Despite the fact neither he nor his friends were involved, he says the security guards pushed and picked a fight with the group, at one point slamming Schwartz to the ground. He is claiming unspecified, but significant, injuries.

And that’s all folks. Stay tuned next time for the latest rundown on the odd stuff happening in the local court system. Tips? DM me on various social media outlets or just use Twitter:@editordanevans. As a wise(ish) relative of mine once said: If you can’t be good, be good at it!

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