Condo Association, Management Firm Blamed For Jupiter Boy’s Death

Riding a split-second ahead of his 9-year-old son, Andre Kovacs didn’t see the crash along U.S. 1 in Jupiter that took his only child’s life.

But today, two years later, Kovacs still relives it — the sound of his son’s bike crashing into a van, his panic of realizing what had happened, the helplessness of not being able to stop it.

Andrew Curtis’ mother, Tracy Curtis, is equally broken, Barnhart said. She tries to avoid doing anything that reminds her of her son. “The things that hurt the most are the things they enjoyed the most,” Barnhart said of the woman who sat nearby struggling to hold back tears. “Imagine not being able to do the things that bring you the most pleasure.”

Villas On The Green resident Helen Bygel pulled out of the entrance of the condominium complex just south of Indiantown Road and struck Andrew, killing him.

The settlement it is expected to be in the millions.

Representation for Bygel as well as the parents\’ legal team is claiming that the crash wasn’t her fault. They claim that the real culprits in the January 2011 crash are the condominium association and its management company.

“Mrs. Bygel followed the rules,” said attorney Matthew Schwencke. “She stopped her car where the Villas on the Green told her to stop.”

The place the condominium association and its management company put the stop sign made it impossible for her to see Kovacs and his son, the attorney said. Likewise, they couldn’t see her.

Hedges at the entrance to the complex were roughly 56 inches high – twice the 30-inch limit required by Jupiter codes. A stop sign that stood 37 inches off the ground was nearly four feet shorter than the height required by the Florida Department of Transportation, he said. The two factors combined created what for Andrew became a fatal obstruction, Schwencke said.

Attorney Patrick Flanagan, who represents Bygel, agreed. After first showing the jury an enlarged photo of the intersection, he flipped the cardboard poster over to the blank side. “This is what Mr. Kovacs, who was leading his son, could see of Mrs. Bygel,” he said. “Absolutely nothing.”

Attorneys representing the condominium association and management company MMI of the Palm Beaches acknowledged that the hedges were higher than Jupiter codes allow. But, attorney Daniel Britto said they didn’t obstruct anyone’s view.”You could still see past 30 feet, which is what the code requires,” he said.

The problem wasn’t the height of the shrubs or the stop sign, but Bygel’s carelessness, he said. Had she remain stopped after Kovacs whizzed by her and turned to her right to see if anyone was following him, the crash would have been avoided. “Not one time did she look back to her right to see if there were pedestrians or bicyclists (coming toward her on the sidewalk),” he said.

“If her decision was to keep her foot on the brake and just press down, his death is not happening,” Britto said.

While Flanagan and Schwencke both said the condo association and the management company would try to blame Kovacs for the crash, Britto said that wasn’t part of their trial strategy. He promised that traffic experts would testify that there was plenty of time to avoid tragedy had Bygel simply stopped and looked.

According to court records, Bygel was cited and found guilty of failing to yield the right-of-way. Her driver’s license was suspended for six months, she was ordered to go to driving school and pay a $1,000 fine.

Sitting in court, she showed no emotion during the opening statements. But, Flanagan said, she is devastated.

“Mrs. Bygel grieves the loss of this child as well,” he said. “She’s a victim along with Mr. Kovacs and Ms. Curtis of the circumstances created by the condominium association and the management company.”


Source:  Palm Beach Post

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