Condo association settles with young father shot by burglars
Daily Business Review
Celia Ampel
24 October 2016

Pedro P. Echarte III    photo  J. Albert Diaz

Bryan Perez was just 22 when he was shot and paralyzed while trying to protect his sister, mother and pregnant girlfriend from home invaders.

The 2014 shooting left him in a wheelchair, making it difficult for him to work and to go out alone with his baby.

"His son will never know him the way he was before," said Pedro Echarte III of the Haggard Law Firm in Coral Gables, who represented Perez in a negligent security lawsuit against the homeowners association of the townhome community where the shooting occurred. The family was renting a first-floor unit in the Carmel Lakes community at 20761 NE Fourth Place in Miami.

Trial was set to begin against the Carmel Lakes Property Owners Association on Oct. 4, but days before, the association agreed to settle with Perez for $8 million, along with a confidential amount for his son. Three other companies affiliated with the property settled earlier in the case for a combined $2.1 million.

"The severity of the injuries to the injured young man, and his future life expectancy of more than 50 years, during which extensive medical care, therapy, and home health attendants would be needed (coupled with legitimate constant neurogenic pain) prompted the resolution of this matter," the association's lawyer, Ben Esco of Cole, Scott & Kissane in Miami, said in an email. Esco worked on the case with Nina Conte and Jonathan Midwall of his firm.

Perez was spending time with friends on his patio on Aug. 18, 2014, when he noticed three young men walk by. The unit had been burglarized just months before, so Perez and his mother bought a safe, which they placed on the patio, Echarte said.

When the young men circled back to approach the unit, they each pulled out a gun and told Perez they wanted the safe. When they pushed Perez and one of his friends into the living room, Perez tried to lock them outside, saying they couldn't come inside where his family was. They shot him several times.

Echarte argued the homeowners association could have foreseen the shooting. The property had seen three armed robberies and several burglaries, and it had let go of its security guard years before.

"They closed the shutters to the guardhouse, essentially advertising to the community at large, 'We don't have a security guard,'" he said.

A board member's husband was held at gunpoint and beaten in the parking lot in September 2013, Echarte said. But the association did not hire a guard, block access from a neighboring golf course, or take other necessary steps after that incident, he argued.

Esco argued the association could not necessarily have foreseen the shooting.
"In over 35 years, this was the first and only shooting to have ever occurred," he said in an email. "One of the assailants confessed to targeting the plaintiff, to rob him of illegal narcotics. The trial court ruled that this evidence was inadmissible."

Two assailants are awaiting criminal trials, and one was never caught.

Echarte said while the property's crime history didn't bode well for the defendant if the case had gone to trial, the plaintiff also had reasons to settle. One factor that Echarte weighed was the possibility that the defense could pin the blame for the shooting on Perez and his mother for placing the safe on the patio.

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