Judge Rouse Throws Out Case Against Volusia County
SUMMARY JUDGMENT ORDER DOWNLOAD HERE -> Aiden Patrick Case Dismissed
Two Four Year Old Children Killed in 2010 on Volusia Beaches
Before Erin Joynt was run over on Volusia beaches by a lifeguard, a pair of 4 year old children were killed on the beach. They were run over by citizen vehicular traffic, as Volusia County has a longstanding tradition of allowing people to operate vehicles on the beach.
Aiden Patrick, the 4-year-boy struck and killed on July 18, 2010, was struck by a truck. His parents filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the county and driver of the truck. The suit, filed in Volusia Circuit Court, claimed that Aiden’s death was caused by the county’s negligence. The suit says the county knew the beach was dangerous and failed to take “appropriate safety measures for the safety of beachgoers” and to provide adequate police patrols.
In March 2010, Ellie Bland, a 4-year-old British girl, was killed at Daytona Beach. The pair of fatal accidents prompted Volusia officials to make some changes on the beach, including providing more signs to warn drivers of children playing and several signs to point out traffic-free zones in Volusia County.
Beach Driving Needs to be Abolished
Do you park on a playground? Do you drive on a football field? Normal streets have curbs and lines, crosswalks and police that enforce the rules. Hitchhikers are no longer allowed on interstates.
The line between where cars operate versus where people are allowed has gotten more distinct — except on the beaches of Volusia County. Many people have died or been seriously injured as a result.
There is something liberating about a beach, which is why so many songs have been written about the sandy shore. Even in 1939, the Florida Supreme Court recognized the beach as a special place, writing, “There is probably no custom more universal, more natural or more ancient, on the sea-coasts, not only of the Unites States, but of the world, than that bathing in the salt waters of the ocean and the enjoyment of the wholesome recreation incident thereto.”
It accordingly held that even where the beach is used as a public highway, the paramount use belongs to the public. Thinking about it just makes you want to experience “How Forever Feels,” as Kenny Chesney described it 60 years later, “Big orange ball, sinkin’ in the water. Toes in the sand, couldn’t get much hotter.”
I appreciate and often am in the position to protect heritage and understand that argument in support of beach driving. However, the true heritage in Florida is in protecting the public.
Tourism is Florida’s biggest business, with an estimated 86 million visitors in 2011. And yet, 13 women have been run over by lifeguards across the state. The public has collided with scores of others, killing several. That can’t be good for tourism.
We live in an age where attention spans have decreased vastly. Florida does not require drivers to have insurance to protect others for injuries they may cause. Texting and driving is legal. Vehicles are quieter and larger.
Despite collecting millions per year off tolls, Volusia County has failed to provide ample regulation of the lanes of traffic or even abide by its own regulation, running over several women in violation of its own rules and policies. A government can further hide behind the protections of sovereign immunity, which puts up barriers and limits on any real accountability no matter how much devastation they cause or fail to prevent. The danger and lack of safeguards are heading in a tragic direction.
The Volusia County Beach Patrol has run over six women during the last several years. Yet, it is charged with responsibility for keeping the line between the highway and playground safe? Meanwhile, at least 50 people have been injured and at least 9 have been killed over the past couple of decades, including two four-year-olds.
It’s easy to blame the parents or cite carelessness, but isn’t the beach supposed to be carefree?
The fact is, Florida leads worldwide in another unfortunate statistic — injuries and deaths by automobiles on beaches. And Volusia County is by far the standout leader and shining example of gross lack of accountability. It offers virtually no protection, virtually no accountability and Band-aid responses to the serious harm occurring on its beaches.
It is time for that tradition to end, or for Volusia County to stop the rhetoric and do more to prevent so much loss of limb and life. Empty promises and toothless policies are only going to lead to more bloodshed.
Those who sit idly by should have to experience how a different kind of “Forever Feels.” My client, Erin Joynt, will forever feel pain, hearing loss, nerve damage and facial paralysis. Her daughter may forever feel the horror of seeing her mother run over. The family of the children that died will forever feel horror no money can replace. No one is going to sing about that side of it. No verdict will make it right.
Unless Volusia is going to adequately protect those in harm’s way, I say beach driving needs to be a thing of the past.
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