LMW’s Monthly Newsletter: March 

 May 27, 2014

By  LMW Attorneys

Welcome to our first newsletter of 2014!

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the LMW newsletter! Our goal with this publication is to keep our clients, friends and family informed about new developments within both our company and the industry. As with all of our technological enhancements, we are not looking to replace human contact, but to supplement the personal relationships we already have with people within our community.

We hope you enjoy this first edition and welcome your feedback so that we can deliver the best product possible.

Craig Laporte: Craig has been practicing law, principally in the area of personal injury litigation since he graduated third in his class from Stetson University College of Law in 1983. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in 1975, he spent eight years as a deputy sheriff with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

Brian Mulligan: Brian was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1996. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in 1991 from the University of Florida, he attended the John Marshall Law School and graduated with his Juris Doctor in 1996. He spent several years prosecuting misdemeanor and felony charges while working for the State Attorney’s office in Pinellas and Pasco Counties.

Frances Werner-Watkins: Frances earned her Bachelor’s Degree in 1994 from the University of South Florida.

In 1998, she graduated with her law degree from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center. In 1998, Frances was admitted to the Florida Bar and has practiced law in Pasco County since that time.

On January 22, Attorney Craig Laporte spoke to numerous citizens on how to understand your automobile insurance. The seminar sponsored by Wells Fargo Advisors, Trinity Branch, titled “Don’t Be Caught Bear” “COVER yourself with auto insurance” covered insurance topics, such as: The mystery about “full coverage”; “PIP” Personal Injury Protection; “PD” Property Damage; “BI” Bodily Injury; “UM” Uninsured/ Underinsured Motorist; the “UM” rejection/selection form; Collision Coverage; and Comprehensive Coverage.

On February 11, the firm
sponsored the purchase of a
copy of Golden Nuggets: A Practitioner’s Reflections on Leadership, Management and
Life, authored by Raymond
 A. Shulstad, PhD, Retired
Brigadier General, USAF. An autographed copy of the General’s book will be given to each student who is participating in the Youth Leadership Pasco Education Day. The General is scheduled to be the speaker for this Youth Leadership Pasco event.

Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins is actively involved with Leadership Pasco, and is excited by the prospect of providing these leadership books to our future leaders. To learn more about Leadership Pasco visit www.LeadershipPasco.com.


LMW is proud to be a Business Sponsor at the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce Community Business Expo. Come out and visit our booth from 4:00-7:00 p.m. on Friday, March 14 or from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 15.

The Expo is being held at the Land
O’ Lakes Recreation Complex, 3032 Collier Parkway. Starting at 11:00 a.m. you can also sample some delicious food from local restaurants–food tickets are $1.00 or six for $5.00
and all proceeds benefit local youth programs. Hope to see you there!


Attorney Craig Laporte Wins Verdict of $975,000 in Neglect Case for Estate of Jailed Woman

On February 14, a federal jury awarded $975,000 to the estate of Jennifer DeGraw, a 50-year-old mentally ill woman who died after she was found unresponsive in her Pinellas County Jail cell in 2009. Attorney Craig Laporte is ecstatic that this jury sent
a message to the sheriff that the care they provided to Jennifer DeGraw was totally unacceptable to them.

DeGraw was booked into the jail on March 16, 2009. The attorneys said detention deputies and medical staff didn’t adequately look after her. Nurses and doctors didn’t ensure she received her medications, based on the grounds that DeGraw refused to take them. She died of a heart attack caused by electrolyte imbalance. DeGraw was pronounced dead at a local hospital after being found in her single cell the morning of March 24. The night before, a nurse and a detention deputy were supposed to check on her periodically, and claimed in paperwork that they did. But videos inside the jail showed that wasn’t the case.

DeGraw’s husband, Michael, had called police to their home
on March 16 and said she had not taken her medication all day and was acting out. DeGraw, who was bipolar, was prescribed Topamax. Deputies Brian Diebold and Nicholas Baez intended to take Jennifer DeGraw to Personal Enrichment Mental Health Services under the state’s Baker Act, which allows a person to be kept as long as 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation. But DeGraw resisted, and Diebold subdued her with an electric stun gun. She was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and taken to the jail.

At the jail, Diebold told the staff that DeGraw was a Baker Act detainee and was to be kept under close medical observation. By law, a jail’s staff is required in Baker Act cases to contact a licensed mental health receiving facility immediately to send someone to examine the inmate. That was not done. Jail administrators were not aware of the law. In addition, then Sheriff Jim Coats testified at the trial that he thought the jail qualified as such a facility. During DeGraw’s nine days in jail, three doctors there either didn’t examine her properly, failed to get a medical history from her or failed to ensure she received her medications, even though the sheriff’s staff received a list of her medications from Walgreens two days after she was arrested. One of the doctors, psychiatrist Richard Miller, didn’t do anything after a licensed clinical social worker told him DeGraw had “obvious psychosis.”

“From the time of her arrival at the Jail intake/booking until the time of her death, Jennifer DeGraw, was in a psychotic state to such a degree that it was or should have been abundantly clear to all involved in her custody and care that she was unable to assist either verbally or physically in her medical or personal care,” the lawsuit stated.

“Despite the fact that Jennifer DeGraw was incapable of making decisions on what prescribed medications to take, or whether
to eat or drink, or even able to express any physical or mental symptom to those monitoring her, none of her medical, psychiatric or nutritional needs were met under the false justification that she was ‘uncooperative,’” the lawsuit stated. Detention Deputy Patricia Shoberg was supposed to check on DeGraw every 15 minutes from 7 p.m. March 23 to 7 a.m. March 24, when she was found unresponsive.

Shoberg filled out “watch forms” reflecting she had checked DeGraw as required, but jail videos showed she did not. Also, Aileen Mallari, a nurse, was supposed to check on DeGraw every two hours during the same period. Mallari filled out paperwork indicating she made the checks, but jail videos showed she had not, and she later acknowledged she falsified records. Mallari made observations in her records of DeGraw based on information from Shoberg, and the observations turned out to be bogus.

Have You or Someone You Know Been Involved in an Auto Accident?

If so, did you know that you must see a doctor within 14 days of the accident? The law now states that if a person injured in a car accident waits to see if his or her injuries will improve and fails to seek medical care within two weeks of the accident, the person’s insurance carrier does not have to pay for any medical treatment or lost wages even though the person paid for this coverage.

Take photos of the accident scene including your car, the other vehicle and the people involved.

Do this immediately while the vehicles are still in their original positions and before they are moved off to the side of the road. Take photos of the surrounding accident scene and anything that could possibly be useful for your case. Since nearly everyone has a “smart” phone, you have the capability of taking photos. If you are contacted by an insurance company, do not agree to a recorded statement. You must hire an attorney.

Selection of the right personal injury lawyer is crucial. Carefully interview attorneys before making your decision to hire. Know that most attorneys offer complimentary initial consultations.