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Law Office of Sharon M Hanlon, PA
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Attorneys Ted Zelman & Sharon Hanlon

Quadriplegic sues The Reach over its pier

Thursday, February 3, 2011

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A former star college baseball player from Naples who was paralyzed from the neck down last summer is suing The Reach for not warning swimmers about the shallow water near its pier.

Ryan Duffy, now 24 and living in Melbourne, suffered a spinal cord injury on Aug. 14, according to a 20-page civil lawsuit filed in Monroe County circuit court on Jan. 24. Naples attorney Sharon Hanlon declined to discuss how Duffy went from the pier to the water — whether he fell, dove, jumped, was pushed or something else — saying she is still researching how he was injured.

Duffy is suing the hotel and General Manager Kevin Speidel for unspecified damages to cover his medical bills, which are expected to grow along with his significant need for care in the future. Costs cited in the lawsuit include medication, wheelchairs, special housing, a full-time nurse and a car modified for his disability. He also must use a ventilator because of his quadriplegia, the lawsuit states.

“He requires around-the-clock care and therapy,” Hanlon said.

Speidel did not return The Citizen’s two phone messages left at The Reach on Monday.

The lawsuit alleges the hotel did not warn potential swimmers on the pier that the water was shallow and failed to post “adequate and meaningful warnings and depth markings.” The lawsuit also alleges the hotel “encouraged and enticed unsuspecting persons to access and utilize the pier without restriction, supervision or warnings.”

Duffy was found floating face-down near the surface.

He has been receiving ongoing care at the Shepherd Center, an Atlanta hospital that specializes in spinal cord and brain injuries, Hanlon said.

Duffy was a standout baseball player at Barron Collier High School and later broke records at Mississippi State University, where he was known as a power hitter who once hit three home runs in one game. He set a school record for 15 total bases in a game and tied a school and NCAA Southeastern Conference record for nine RBIs in one game. He graduated from the university in May with a degree in business, Hanlon said.

Duffy first visited Key West during lobster season when he was 6 years old and had visited many times since, his father, Kevin Duffy, told The Citizen in August.

Circuit Judge David Audlin will preside over the case.

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