Family of Woman Killed by Border Patrol Files Wrongful Death Claim

The family of a woman shot to death by U.S. Border patrol has filed a wrongful death claim.

Valeria “Munique” Alvarado, a mother of five, was shot to death in September by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Chula Vista, California. Her family has filed a claim of wrongful death against the agency.

“The tragedy of this young mother’s death must be fully investigated,” said Tampa personal injury attorney Robert Joyce. “Hopefully, investigators will get to the bottom of the shooting and determine whether it could have been prevented.”

The agent, 34-year-old Justin Tackett, was dressed in plain clothes and investigating potential drug activity, unrelated to Alvarado, in the area. Other agents present say that Alvarado deliberately struck Tackett with her car. The agent was forced to ride on the hood of the car for several hundred feet. Tackett then shot Alvarado through the windshield nine times, according to the family’s attorney.

The family intends to sue both the Border Agent who shot Alvarado and the agency that hired him, claiming they did not perform the required background checks on the officer. They also say the agent used excessive force in the shooting.

Documents filed in the claim as part of a required precursor to the wrongful death lawsuit show Tackett has a history of misconduct. In fewer than four years as an Imperial County sheriff’s deputy, he received four suspensions for behavior including violating suspects’ rights and crashing a patrol car.

The claim further alleges that in 2002, during a probation case, Tackett failed to follow a direct order and provided false information to investigators.

Shawn Moran of the National Border Patrol Council said he believed Tackett’s actions in the incident were appropriate, and said Tackett would have the council’s backing.

“Lawsuits of injury or wrongful death against law enforcement officers can be especially difficult,” added Mr. Joyce. “Anyone contemplating such a claim should be sure to hire an experienced attorney.”

To learn more about the Tampa personal injury lawyer or the Joyce & Reyes Law Firm, visit or call 1.888.771.1529.

Department of Justice Seeks Quick Action on Disabled Children in Nursing Homes

The U.S. Department of Justice sent Florida officials a letter requesting a meeting in the near future regarding a recent federal investigation, saying time was of the essence. That investigation found that disabled children are being housed unnecessarily in Florida nursing homes, contrary to their best interests. The department suggested that state and federal officials meet within two weeks.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires state governments to provide treatment for disabled children in or near their homes whenever feasible. The investigation centered on 221 children with complex and costly conditions who live in nursing homes and said many could live at home or in community settings if the state provided necessary services there.

Florida officials have vehemently denied the allegations and characterized the situation as a “misunderstanding.” They said they have visited all of the nursing homes where disabled children have been placed and contacted the children’s parents.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez criticized state officials in his letter for objecting to the investigation’s findings despite refusing to comply with federal requests for information. He also said that the Department of Justice has received numerous calls from families and patient advocates since the report.

“The issues raised in our findings letter are not simply our concerns; they reflect the concerns of families across Florida struggling to keep their families together and to have their children grow up at home, with all the benefits that flow from home and community living,” the letter said.

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Florida Nursing Home Placed on Federal Watch List

A Florida nursing home with a history of problems has been placed on a government watch list. The home must clean up its act to avoid a suspension of its Medicare and Medicaid payments.

“Nursing homes are entrusted with caring for our most vulnerable family members,” said Tampa personal injury lawyer Robert Joyce. “It is important that they be held to the highest standards of safety and care.”

Avante at Ormond Beach has been identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a “special focus facility,” indicating that the nursing home has shown a pattern of serious problems over a prolonged period of time.

In a report by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Brian Lee of the nursing home patient advocacy group Families for Better Care called the list the “nursing home hall of shame.”

Nursing homes on the list are subject to inspection twice as often as homes in good standing. Those that do not show improvement may face fines and denial of Medicare and Medicaid payments.

In a report on a past violation, government inspectors noted that Avante staff did not properly report and investigate an allegation of sexual assault. A resident at the home alleged that a staff member climbed into bed with the resident’s roommate. The employee and the roommate both denied the incident, and Avante management elected not to report the allegation to authorities. Inspectors concluded that the handling of the complaint constituted an “immediate jeopardy” to residents’ safety.

Lee told the News-Journal that it is not up to nursing home staff to determine the legitimacy of such allegations, and that authorities should have been notified.

Avante was also cited in an incident involving a resident kept on a feeding tube. The resident vomited three times in two days, but staff failed to notify his doctor as required by the man’s treatment plan.

Nursing Home Compare, the federal government’s rating website for nursing homes, rates Avante “average” in quality and “above average” in staffing, but “much below average” in health inspection. The facility’s overall rating is two out of five stars.

To learn more about the Tampa personal injury lawyer or the Joyce & Reyes Law Firm, visit or call 1.888.771.1529.

Law Enforcement Collect Unwanted Prescription Drugs in Effort to Stem Abuse

Law enforcement agencies in the Tampa Bay area recently held events where the public could turn in expired or unwanted prescription medication. The events were part of Florida’s recent efforts to crack down on prescription drug abuse.

Hundreds of people showed up and dropped off over 1,500 pounds of pills at 13 Tampa-area locations, according to officials. Anyone was welcome to drop off medication with no questions asked. The initiative, called Operation Medicine Cabinet, is a national program sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. In Pinellas County, the sheriff’s office teamed up with seven other agencies to collect over 800 pounds of pills.

Lawmakers are trying to counter Florida’s reputation as home to the most “pill mills” in the nation’s epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse. In the past two years, they have passed laws strictly regulating the dispensing of Oxycontin and other painkillers and implemented a statewide prescription drug database. The database is intended to record every sale of the pills in order to track abusers, dealers, and unscrupulous doctors.

A similar pill disposal effort in the Cincinnati area earlier this year collected a staggering 3½ tons of pills. Ohio lies near the middle of the so-called Oxycontin Express, a route by which the widely-abused painkiller is illegally distributed. The route starts in Florida and goes north along Interstate 75 all the way to Canada.

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Wrongful Death Suit Filed on Behalf of Tampa Girl

The management company of a Tampa apartment complex is being sued in the wake of the death of a local seven-year-old girl. Zhanaye Williams was killed when a gate collapsed on top of her at Brookside Apartments, where she lived.

“It is hard to imagine an event more tragic than the death of a child,” said Tampa personal injury attorney Robert Joyce, “particularly if the accident was preventable.”

The accident happened on April 11. While waiting for the school bus that morning, Williams and two classmates were playing on the broken gate. Williams rode the gate while the two boys pushed her back and forth. The gate then fell on the girl, pinning her beneath it. Williams was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, but died from the injuries later that day. An autopsy report said head trauma was the cause of death.

According to the firm filing the wrongful death suit, residents had previously complained that the gate was often in disrepair. It was broken and at times held upright by a single chain.

The wrongful death suit was filed on behalf of Williams’ estate against Brookside Tampa LLC and Franklin Street Apartment Management Services. Although the suit does not specify an amount, it seeks damages exceeding $15,000.

Franklin Street Management filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization on Brookside Apartments in 2009. A long list of necessary repairs to the property was partly to blame for the company’s financial troubles.

The complaint also alleges that Williams’ brother was at the scene of the accident and has claims stemming from the accident as well.

Zhanaye Williams was a student at Riverhills Elementary School. School officials had a crisis team visit on the day of Williams’ death to help students cope with the tragic news.

“In cases of accidental injuries and deaths, it is important for victims to know their rights,” added Mr. Joyce. “Anyone who suspects another party may be at fault should speak to a qualified personal injury attorney right away.”

To learn more about the Tampa personal injury lawyer or the Joyce & Reyes Law Firm, visit or call 1.888.771.1529.

Tainted Injections Sicken More Than 100 with Fungal Meningitis

Tainted steroid injections have sickened at least 138 people throughout the nation with fungal meningitis. At least one dozen people have died, including a 70-year-old Florida man. The injections have been traced to New England Compounding Center (NECC), a Massachusetts company that mixes and combines drugs into custom formulations not commonly available from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Meningitis is an infection of the membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain. Symptoms include fever, nausea, and headache. The fungal form of meningitis is not contagious.

NECC has since surrendered its license and recalled its products. In addition, Ameridose LLC, a company owned by the same individuals as NECC, has given up attempts to distance itself from its sister company and the meningitis outbreak. Ameridose has agreed to close down for two weeks while officials investigate the matter.

The outbreak has prompted calls for better oversight of the custom pharmaceutical industry. The process of drug “compounding,” as it is called, is regulated mainly by state governments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration admits their legal authority to regulate such activity is “complex” and actively opposed by industry leaders.

In 2006, following an inspection of NECC’s facilities, the FDA and the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy issued a warning letter to the company regarding their operational safeguards. Specifically, they took issue with the company’s practice of opening sterile products and repackaging them without sufficient protection against infection.

The letter also alleged that the company was violating a law forbidding the sale of compounded drugs without receiving a prescription for a specific patient.

“Your firm has reportedly also told physicians’ offices that using a staff member’s name on the prescription would suffice,” the letter said.

Up to 13,000 patients nationwide may have received tainted injections of anti-inflammatory steroids manufactured by NECC for purposes of pain management.

In a Reuters report, Jim McGuire of Tennessee said that his local emergency room was flooded with patients ordered to undergo tests for fungal meningitis.

“It was kind of a chaos in the emergency room,” he said. “The triage for this was incredible. There were beds lined up in the hallway. As soon as one spinal tap was over, they were pushing another one in.”

U.S. Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts was recently the beneficiary of a fundraiser held by Conigliaro, NECC’s owner, to help his re-election campaign. A spokesperson for the campaign said that Brown would donate the $10,000 contributed by Conigliaro to the Meningitis Foundation of America.

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