American Bar Association
American Association for Justice
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Florida Justice Association

A Miami-Dade Jury Found a School Principal Partially Liable for the Death of one teen and Paralysis of Another

A Miami-Dade jury held a school partially liable in the drunk-driving death of one student and paralysis of another in a car accident back in 2001.

The jury knew Robert Fenchak, principal of Archbishop Carroll High School, was aware of the party at a student’s home. By the end of that afternoon – the last day of school – Michael Sánchez-Agramonte was dead and Gabriel Maynoldi was paralyzed and brain damaged after they each decided to take a ride while heavily intoxicated.

Almost seven years later, the jury awarded Maynoldi’s family a $14 million judgment, holding Archbishop Carroll — and the Archdiocese of Miami — liable for his life-altering injuries, the Miami Herald reported.

‘It’s a great day for justice,’ said David Deehl, the attorney for Maynoldi and his parents, Jose Luis and Olga Maynoldi. “My client was so devastated by the accident.’

The archdiocese will appeal said Mary Ross Agosta, a church spokeswoman.

Rosario Lozada Schrier, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, was surprised by the verdict. ‘Usually, if the event is off school grounds, after school hours and not school-funded, there’s very little liability for the school,’ she said. “It’s a much more serious matter if school officials were involved.’

Students had circulated party invitations with a picture of a Crown Royal whiskey bottle and a note to “come end the school year the right away.’

Eventually, 100 students gathered at the party. One partygoer had a liquor bottle in plain sight and another approached Fenchak with a glass of Crown Royal in his hand. Ivy Barbaran told the court Sánchez-Agramonte stumbled in front of Fenchak, then collapsed onto another student’s car, denting its hood. Fenchak had gone to the home to check on the party.

Maynoldi and Sánchez-Agramonte, both 17, left the gathering in a sedan, which later smashed into a tree growing out of the median strip. The vehicle was traveling 80 mph and was split in half by the tree’s impact, according to Herald reports.

Toxicology tests verified Sánchez-Agramonte had a blood alcohol concentration level of .22, almost three times the state’s legal limit. Maynoldi, ejected from the vehicle, had a BAC of .096. It was undetermined which teen was the driver.

The jury found liable the parents who owned the home where the party was thrown. Also found liable was the woman who bought the alcohol, Maynoldi and his parents.

“All adults — from parents to school administrators — have an obligation to monitor the behavior of teenagers,” said Don Murray, state CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

‘Our culture has been to give a wink and a nod when it comes to underage drinking,’ Murray said. “It’s seen as a rite of passage. It’s a shame that we give it credence. Too often, it has tragic consequences.’

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