Shephard’s Beach Resort in Clearwater settles for $7 million in lawsuits over bike deaths

Are you aware of what your employees are doing in your absence? Routine training improves efficiency and instills positive attitudes and good decision-making among employees creating a culture of integrity, responsibility and ownership within your business which is vital to your bottom line. The one place you don’t want your business to end up is in a lawsuit with your insurance company and without proper insurance coverage. Tampa Bay Times, Laura C. Morel, shares an incident of bad employee decisions that cost the resort millions on top of loss of insurance.

 

 

Shephard’s Beach Resort agreed to pay $7 million to the families of a couple who were struck and killed on the Clearwater Memorial Causeway by one of its employees in 2013, according to court records.

The confidential settlement was made public this month after Shephard’s, a waterfront hotel and restaurant on Clearwater Beach, sued its insurance company in Pinellas Circuit Court.

On Sept. 2, 2013, Rob Lemon and his girlfriend, Hilary Michalak, were riding east on the causeway on a tandem bicycle when a Nissan pickup driven by Christopher Weed slammed into them, hurling the couple 50 feet apart, police said at the time.

Lemon, 25, died the same day. Michalak, 27, died Sept. 21 after almost three weeks in a coma at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

Weed, now 32, turned himself in to police a day after the crash and told detectives he blacked out on the way home after his shift at Shephard’s. In 2014, he pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving death and was sentenced to 11 years in state prison, followed by three years of probation.

According to lawsuits filed by Lemon and Michalak’s families, Weed, who was employed as a “bar back” at Shephard’s tiki bar, was drinking “excessive amounts of alcohol.” Some employees also “induced or encouraged” Weed to continue drinking after they knew or should have known that he was intoxicated, records state.

The lawsuits were consolidated last May and were settled in December when Shephard’s agreed to pay $3.5 million each to the families.

According to the complaint related to the lawsuit against Shephard’s insurance company, Wells Fargo, and one of its agents, the resort now lacks “insurance coverage for the remaining amounts due” in the settlement.

George Vaka, a Tampa attorney representing Shephard’s in the insurance case, declined to say how much money, if any, the families have already received, but acknowledged they would not get the full amount until the insurance issues are resolved.

The families declined to comment Tuesday. Their attorneys could not be reached. Shephard’s did not return a call from a reporter.

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