Friday, May 25, 2018
Business

How a photo of a Florida gator swimming in a parking lot became part of federal lawsuit

TAMPA — With more than 1.3 million alligators calling Florida home, perhaps it is inevitable that a gator will occasionally compete with commuters for a good parking space.

Case in point in a federal lawsuit: a photo of a gator confidently swimming in the flooded parking lot of a Tampa business park.

This is litigation, Florida-style.

Photos allegedly showing the swimming gator are exhibits in a federal lawsuit filed Dec. 21 against the owner of a business park near Westchase in Tampa by a tenant who said flooding prevented workers from safely getting to work.

Vital Network Services Inc., a computer and cellular network services company, asks a judge to enforce the termination of its lease at the Tri-County Business Park at 13300 McCormick Drive, which is owned by Tnhyif Reiv Juliet of White Plains, N.Y.

Vital Network said it was forced to send workers home Aug. 3 and 4 after record-breaking rains.

A provision of Vital Network's lease, the lawsuit says, allows it to terminate its lease if the offices are unreachable because of flooding for at least two consecutive hours. The firm decided to end the lease, noting its offices must be staffed 24 hours a day.

"The Tenant determined that in its reasonable discretion, the Premises were rendered inaccessible by the flooding and could not be reached by vehicle," the suit says.

The landlord disagreed, telling the company, "the Premises were accessible to most vehicles."

"We appreciate that storms in the area … were disruptive to the Tenant's business," the property manager said in a letter to Vital Network. "Landlord's position, however, is that Tenant was not inconvenienced more significantly than any other resident or business in the area."

Attorneys for the landlord and tenant could not be reached for comment Wednesday. It is unclear if the defendants will challenge the authenticity of the gator photos, which Vital Network's suit says were taken in front of its offices.

The suit was originally filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court but was later refiled in federal.

Lawsuits involving gators are old hat in Florida courts.

One of the strangest, according to published reports, occurred in 1989 when a Miami man sought permits to keep two 4-foot alligators in his mobile home. Wildlife officers came to his home and became alarmed when the man answered the door with a bloody T-shirt, suffering from several puncture wounds.

Officers found the two alligators in the man's bed. They seized the gators.

"Most people would sneak out of town, but this guy filed a lawsuit to get the gators back," novelist Carl Hiaasen told the Florida Bar in a 2003 talk. "Here's the funny part. Twenty-three months later, it winds up in front of the 3rd District Court of Appeal, which rules directly, bluntly — and sanely, I might add — that there is no constitutional right to consort with prehistoric reptiles, either intimately or not intimately."

Contact William R. Levesque at [email protected] Follow @Times_Levesque.

Comments
Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Last year three members of the 69ers Motorcycle Club gang were implicated in the execution of a rival gang leader in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pasco County.Now those three and two other 69ers members have been indicted on federal charges tha...
Published: 05/25/18
With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

TAMPA — Behind the construction walls near the carousel at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, hammers, saws and power drills made a racket in the blazing Friday heat. A raft full of 100-pound water jugs took test trips on the new Roaring Springs ride set ...
Published: 05/25/18
U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

LONDON ó U.S. news outlets including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel and The Arizona Daily Star abruptly blocked access to their websites from Europe on Friday, choosing to black out readers rather than comply with a ...
Published: 05/25/18
Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

TAMPA ó Tampa Electric Co. is appealing a recent citation by federal regulators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit the utility with a $76,050 fine and a "serious" violation in April following its investigation into an accident in ...
Published: 05/25/18
Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Donít use the cruise control

Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Donít use the cruise control

Associated PressDETROIT ó Fiat Chrysler is recalling 4.8 million vehicles in the U.S. because in rare but terrifying circumstances, drivers may not be able to turn off the cruise control. The company is warning owners not to use cruise control until...
Published: 05/25/18
Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Associated PressFederal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Friday that the Fedís independence from political pressure must be respected if it is to succeed in controlling inflation, maximizing employment and regulating the financial system. His re...
Published: 05/25/18
Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Tim Butler’s first car was a Ford Model A pick-up truck — a pearl fawn and cherry red pick-up he got his senior year in high school from his dad, who renovates antique cars. That’s why as Butler waited for a table at the Ford’...
Published: 05/25/18
St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

TAMPA ó A St. Petersburg man was fined $507,513 and permanently barred from participating in the offering of a penny stock in a case involving a scheme to manipulate the price of Aureus, a penny stock company incorporated in Nevada, officials said Fr...
Published: 05/25/18
Broadcomís CEO tops highest-paid list with a $103 million payout

Broadcomís CEO tops highest-paid list with a $103 million payout

Times staff and wiresNEW YORK ó Chief executives at the biggest public companies got an 8.5 percent raise last year, bringing the median pay package for CEOs to $11.7 million. Across the S&P 500, compensation for CEOs is often hundreds of times highe...
Published: 05/25/18
Denis Phillips, hurricane season guru, talks his signature beer, suspenders and Rule #7

Denis Phillips, hurricane season guru, talks his signature beer, suspenders and Rule #7

SAFETY HARBOR ó Denis Phillips cracks a pop-top and pulls a can that looks a lot like him to his lips."Itís got that citrusy feel to it," he says. "Which is a Florida thing. Thatís not bad." Indeed, thereís a grapefruit finish to Rule #7 Hurricane Sa...
Published: 05/25/18