Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Carmel on the Case: Valet Victim Victory
It's taken years, but an elderly South Florida woman has finally won a legal battle against a large casino. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- Thelma Higby, Accident Victim: "I still have a bad, very bad ankle here."
Ninety-one-year-old Thelma Higby is confined to a wheelchair these days, but her spirit is strong despite suffering from a serious accident in 2009.
Security cameras at the Isle of Capri Casino in Pompano Beach caught the incident on video.
Thelma was there with her family for a Mother's Day celebration. She was holding onto the car door as her daughter and son-in-law went to the back of the car to get her walker out of the trunk.
Suddenly, the valet started to drive off.
Thelma fell, was caught and dragged. The valet stopped, but put the car in reverse instead of park, and it started rolling backwards.
At the last minute, her son-in-law pulled her free.
Thelma Higby, Accident Victim: "He came within an inch of running over my head. Well, I thought I was a goner, I'll tell you the truth."
The family thought fault was so clear, there would be no problem getting Thelma's medical care paid for by the casino.
But that did not happen, and her son-in-law says medical bills mounted.
Bruce Dadah, Thelma's Son-in-Law: "They just kept dragging it out and dragging it out."
Matt Haynes, Thelma's Attorney: "One thing that really struck me about this case was that Ms. Higby and her family, they didn't even hire a lawyer for year. They kept trying to work with the casino, and the casino just kept putting them off and putting them off."
Thelma sued and won, but the casino appealed.
It argued the video of the accident should not have been shown to the jury.
As we first reported last January, Thelma is convinced the appeal was a delay tactic.
Thelma Higby, Accident Victim: "Well they thought that I was an old lady, and I was badly injured, you know, and I was gonna die. Well I fooled them."
And she beat them.
The casino's appeal was denied.
Today, almost a year after winning a jury verdict for more than half a million dollars, Thelma Higby has been paid.
Thelma Higby, Accident Victim: "It's wonderful, absolutely wonderful."
Carmel Cafiero: "Is it a big burden off your shoulders?"
Thelma Higby, Accident Victim: "Oh, yes."
But the victory is bittersweet.
Thelma can no longer live on her own and has moved in with her family.
The money helps, they say, but it's far from hitting a jackpot.
Bruce Dadah, Thelma's Son-in-Law: "It's nearly not enough for the cost of 24/7 care, because she can't walk, she can't stand on her own, so someone always has to be there."
The Isle of Capri turned down our request for an interview for our first report and recently has not returned calls for comment.
Matt Haynes, Thelma's Attorney: "All I can say is, if they were betting on Ms. Higby to pass away before she collected her verdict, that's one bet the casino lost."
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