March 18, 2012 was one of the worst days of Michael DeMella’s life. That day, he lost his wife, Alanna DeMella, who was seven months pregnant with their first son, when Rosa Rivera Kim traveled off of the road and into the hotel’s poolside cabana occupied by Alanna at the Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale.
Now, after more than three years fighting this case, DeMella finally can get closure. Last week, a Broward Circuit Court returned a verdict of $24 million and assigned 15% responsibility against the Riverside Hotel and 85% to the Rosa Rivera Kim following a six day trial. The net verdict against the hotel is approximately $3.6 million.
According to court documents, Michael and Alanna Demella were in Fort Lauderdale for a two-day marriage conference at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, after they won the trip from home church in Woburn, Massachusetts. The couple checked into the Riverside Hotel and went to the pool. They had stepped into the cabana restroom moments before the incident. The driver of the vehicle, Rosa Rivera Kim, was later arrested and in January 2015 was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison on two counts of DUI Manslaughter, after it was determined that her blood alcohol level was .24 – 3 times the legal limit.
Michael Demella filed suit against the Riverside Hotel, claiming that the hotel was negligent in failing to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition by protecting its guest from the known danger that speeding and distracted drivers posed to hotel guests.
“Nothing can be done to bring Alanna back or replace what I’ve lost. I can only seek justice in the criminal and civil courts. And I feel that our legal system didn’t let me down,” Demella said.
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