Footage from security video showing the September 24 carjacking of Shaun Sinclair-Stept at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami. Stept's attorneys seek to claim punitive damages againt the hotel and valet service in the case. Video from YouTube channel Fatmir Josias.
Miami—A Tuesday afternoon hearing will determine whether Miami’s Marriott Marquis and the valet service it uses are exposed to punitive damages and other sanctions in a suit by a guest injured in a 2014 carjacking in the hotel’s valet lane. Stept v. Met II Hotel LLC, et al., 2014-CA-031706.
Shaun Sinclair-Stept dropped off her Lexus to check in at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami when a man identified in documents as Alberto Ruiz allegedly tried to steal her car from the valet lane. According to court records, Stept injured her arm as Ruiz took her car. Ruiz also slammed into several others as he tried to flee. Stept has undergone elbow surgery and continues to struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to her attorney, Ritter Chusid’s Mitch Chusid.
Chusid claims police reports show Ruiz allegedly tried to steal at least five Park One valet-serviced vehicles in the area, including at least one vehicle from the Marquis itself, in the months before he took Stept’s Lexus. Despite their knowledge of the incidents, and Ruiz’s alleged penchant for stealing cars while they sat unattended in the valet lane, Chusid says neither the Marquis nor Park One changed its vehicle parking and security procedures or warned patrons of the potential risk. “They didn’t change their procedure whatsoever,” Chusid said, in explaining why he sought to add the claim for punitives. “It was business as usual.”
Judge Gisela Cardonne Ely will also consider a motion to strike Marquis and Park One’s pleadings as sanctions for what Chusid claims was defendants’ failure to produce documents evidence related to the case, including email and HR paperwork showing the companies' knowledge of the earlier carjackings.
“This case really brings to light the perils that people face when they pull up to a valet, whether it’s at a hotel or at a parking lot,” Chusid said. “You pull up to the porte cochere at a five-star hotel, and you expect to be treated with dignity. You expect to be safe,” Chusid said. “To this very day (defendants) still haven’t changed their procedures.”
McIntosh Sawran’s Douglas McIntosh, representing Park One, said he was unable to comment on the matter while it remained pending.
Attorneys for the Marriott Marquis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
CVN will record the Tuesday hearing and offer video on demand as soon as it is available.