The Family of the late New York jazz musician, Zachary Breaux, was awarded $5 million in damages for Mr. Breaux drowning while trying to save Ms. Poleyeff in 1997, in Miami Beach.
The city of Miami discussed a settlement in regard to the drowning, however when the settlement agreement was released, the insurer refused to pay anything in the lawsuit. This legal case caused severe liability issues in regards to beaches and seaside communities that do not provide the service of lifeguards at publicly owned beaches. Last month U.S. District Judge Alan Gold ordered Delaware-based Monticello Insurance Co. to pay damages to the wife of Zachary Breaux but the insurance company refused to pay, even though the family’s lawyer and the City of Miami Beach had negotiated a settlement. The Judge also enacted the rights of the husband of Eugenie Poleyeff, and ordered that the insurance company pay $750,000 in damages to Mr. Poleyeff. Both cases soon thereafter were sent to Miami federal court for further litigation. During the interim, the state Legislature passed a law removing liability for seaside municipalities if they posted warning flags about dangerous swimming conditions or if someone drowned because of natural causes, but the new law did not affect the two cases. Mr. and Mrs. Poleyeff were vacationing in Miami when she went out into the water for a swim in which the tide pulled her too far out. Mr. Breaux, who was on the beach at that time, realized the situation and tried to help, resulting in both Mr. Breaux and Mrs. Poleyeff drowning under deep waters. Both Ms. Frederica Breaux (family member) and Mr. Poleyeff sued Miami Beach, alleging that the public beach should have had lifeguards present and warnings posted. The city wanted to do the right thing and settle with the victims, but it also became victim when Monticello insurance abandoned them by denying both coverage and defense. Judge Gold ordered Monticello insurance to compensate for the damages to both families, as well as pay the city $200,000 in reimbursements under the settlement.