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Crocodile Attack

As an attorney, you many times sit down with a potential client and only know a small amount of the situation. The key that many attorneys forget is that you can not determine if there is a legal solution to an issue until you actually hear what the client says. A closed mind is created by an open mouth. As an attorney I try to open my ears, so that I can have an open mind.

Allow me to present you with a real life legal situation that just occurred:

In what was supposed to be a relaxing getaway before starting college this fall turned into a real life nightmare for California 18-year-old Kiana Hummel, who was attacked by a 12-foot-long crocodile while vacationing in Mexico with a friend earlier this month. The attack happened just before midnight at the Marriott resort in Puerto Vallarta as she stepped into the ocean to have a swim.

The client wants to sue – Lawsuit?

Hummel described the attack from her hospital bed. She said she and her friend had decided to go for a late night swim at the resort, but they weren’t even in the water when the crocodile emerged from the ocean, grabbed her right leg and pulled her into the water.

Hummel said she remained calm even as she got dragged under the water. She continued to hit the crocodile as hard as she could until it finally let go of her right leg. She said she had almost escaped when the crocodile grabbed onto her left ankle and dragged her back under.

Eventually, the group was able to get the crocodile to let go of Hummel and they were able to bring her to safety. Miraculously, she survived and didn’t lose any limbs, although she does have extensive muscle and tissue damage all the way to the bones and is currently unable to walk.

The Client wants to sue – Lawsuit?

Hummel’s mother, Ariana Martinez, learned of the attack over Facetime from her home. She got on the next flight from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta.

“I’m on the phone with her, she’s yelling, ‘Get me an ambulance, get me an ambulance to the hospital,'” Martinez recalled of her daughter. “It took them forever.”

According to Laney, who stayed with Hummel after the attack, it took 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Once it did, Martinez said the hospital demanded she pay thousands of dollars before giving any treatment.

The Client wants to sue – Lawsuit?

In a statement, Marriott spokesperson Kerstin Sachl confirmed the crocodile attack and said, “The safety and security of our guests and associates are our top priority, and we can confirm that appropriate signage, as well as night patrolling and red flags were and are properly in place.”

“We review our plans and procedures often and work closely with the appropriate authorities on an ongoing basis,” she continued. “Our staff is trained in how to respond to safety matters appropriately. We encourage all guests to be vigilant for their safety.”

But Hummel, Martinez and Laney believe not enough was done by the hotel to warn guests that a crocodile could be in the ocean. They said they were not given a verbal warning and they only learned of the warning sign after the attack. They say it is small, mostly in Spanish and not lit up at night.

Laney’s friend, Natalie, wrote a review of the hotel on Trip Advisor where she said: “I understand you don’t want to ‘scare’ guests, but the following day, there should’ve been big YELLOW signs to warn of the attack…my group is TRAUMATIZED by this experience.”

The Client wants to sue- Lawsuit?

According to a Spanish-language news report, in 2018, another woman was also attacked by a crocodile on that same beach.

The Client wants to sue- Lawsuit?

In every layer of a story a new fact is discovered. I often describe these as pieces of a puzzle. When a client comes in with a situation, they often ask two questions:

1. Do I have a case?

2. How much is it worth?

My answer is an honest – the evidence will tell us. Every piece of evidence is a piece of a puzzle. When you go through litigation, discovery gathers more pieces of that puzzle. When you get to mediation or trial then you put your pieces together and evaluate your picture. Your picture may be unattractive, it may be missing pieces, or the picture can be complete and perfect. You do not know until you listen to the story, understand all perspectives of the story, and gather as much supporting evidence for your story as you can.

If you need a law firm to actually listen to your situation and evaluate your pieces of the puzzle, please consider Goldfinch Winslow at 843-357-9301. We strive to evaluate each client and situation with open ears and an open mind.

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