Originally created 11/26/05

Across the Southeast



Judge awards couple millions in lawsuit

HIALEAH, FLA. - A federal judge has awarded $60.9 million to a couple whose son suffered severe brain damage when he was born in a Jacksonville Navy hospital two years ago.

The award this week for Raiza Bravo and Oscar Rodriguez is believed to be the largest ever under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows private citizens to sue the federal government for the negligent conduct of its employees.

The government is likely to appeal the case or renegotiate the settlement.

Kevin Bravo Rodriguez, now 2, cannot see, speak or swallow. His muscles are rigid, and he cannot move his arms and legs. He cannot respond to any stimulus except pain, and doctors say he will not live past age 21.

But Kevin had an infection before his mother came to the hospital, and one of Mrs. Bravo's physicians was an independent contractor, said Wendy Jacobus, who heads the civil division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami.

Fishermen found safe after 14-hour search

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FLA. - Four missing fishermen were found safe Friday morning clinging to the hull of their capsized boat after a 14-hour search by the Coast Guard.

The four were spotted at about 10:15 a.m. clinging to the 19-foot Cobia about 25 miles off Ormond Beach, Coast Guard Petty Officer Bobby Nash said.

Tran Troung, Donald Englert, Duk Nguyen and a fourth man whose name was not available left the New Smyrna Beach municipal boat ramp Thanksgiving morning.

Law firm will close, consolidate offices

TAMPA, FLA. - Holland & Knight, Florida's largest law firm, will leave four markets next year, consolidate some offices and cut its work force by 120 people.

In a phone message to employees last week, managing partner Howell W. Melton Jr. said the cutbacks were being made to strengthen the firm's economic foundation and competitive position.

Holland & Knight has 1,285 lawyers in 26 offices nationwide. When the reductions are complete at the end of 2006, it will be left with 18 offices in nine states and the District of Columbia.

The firm will close offices in Bradenton and Lakeland; in Annapolis, Md.; and will pull out of Providence, R.I.; San Antonio; Seattle; and Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

- Edited from wire reports