A Broward County family, whose patriarch suffered traumatic brain injuries when his wheelchair fell off a paratransit van wheelchair lift, has reached a $300,000 settlement with Broward County.
Despite being slowed by a rare spinal condition, Miguel Colareta was working at Goodwill Industries in 2012, when his wheelchair slipped off a lift that had been recalled as defective, but not repaired.
In addition to reaching a $500,000 settlement with the county’s then-paratransit contractor, Colareta’s family reached undisclosed settlements with the lift manufacturer and the insurance company for the paratransit provider.
Last month, the family’s final claim was settled when the Broward Board of County Commissioners approved a $300,000 settlement, while continuing to pursue a claim for reimbursement from its former paratransit contractor, American Medical Transport.
The lawsuit claimed the county failed to assure the van its contractor used was properly maintained, including making sure a recalled wheelchair lift part was promptly replaced. The lawsuit alleged that defective part caused the fall and injuries.
Aida Colareta, Miguel’s wife of 37 years, said she is hopeful the settlements will allow her to return Miguel to the family house from the nursing home where he’s lived since the accident left him quadriplegic.
“I really don’t know. We are working on it. We are working on it to get him home because I think that is going to be the best way for him to be with us,” she said.
She also said she hopes the settlements will encourage those who care for the disabled to treat them better. "It’s incredible how people with disabilities are treated. That’s bad," she said.
The attorney who led the family’s three-year battle, Justin Leto, explained further: "The county has the responsibility to make sure these people are properly protected and by failing to adhere to that responsibility these terrible accidents happen, so we hope they’ll be more proactive in the future.”
An assistant county attorney told NBC 6 Investigators it was in everyone’s interest to resolve the claim for $300,000, which is the most a government can be forced pay in circumstances like this in Florida.
None of those parties involved in the settlements admitted any wrongdoing.