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Lawsuit blames scooter in death

A scooter that 12-year-old Stewart Abramowicz was riding last year as he crossed Pinehurst Drive collapsed at a crucial moment, leaving him in the path of an oncoming car and ultimately causing his death, alleges a lawsuit filed by his mother.

The suit, seeking damages for wrongful death, personal injury and emotional distress, was filed Friday in Hernando County Circuit Court on behalf of Amber Costa.

Her twin sons, Stewart and Anthony Abramowicz, were struck by a car on Jan. 19, 2001, as they rode their scooters on Pinehurst. Stewart died the next day; Anthony survived.

The suit names four defendants _ the manufacturer and distributor of the scooters, and two local residents who ran the business that sold the scooters, Beanie & Gift Boutique.

But in an interview Tuesday, Costa expressed some misgivings about the fact her lawyer included the beanie shop in the claim.

The suit alleges that Stewart Abramowicz began having difficulty controlling his scooter as the boys were crossing the street. It contends that the metal post leading from the handlebars to the front-wheel assembly collapsed, causing Stewart to slow down in the middle of the road. Anthony also slowed down as he watched his brother, it claims.

It was then that a car driven by Geraldine Berotti came through the area and struck the boys. Berotti saw them too late, she said. The suit alleges the accident occurred because the boys had to slow down due to the mechanical failure.

Stewart suffered massive head injuries after he hit the windshield and was thrown to the pavement. Although Anthony was released from the hospital soon after the accident, the suit alleges he still suffers from lingering effects of the accident.

Neither boy wore a helmet at the time of the accident, which occurred around dusk. Berotti was eventually charged with careless driving. Costa sued Berotti shortly after the accident. Costa said the case was settled out of court, but she would not reveal the terms.

In this case, Todo Dollar Wholesale of California is named as a defendant because it was the distributor and seller of the scooter the boys used. A person answering the company's phone referred questions to another official, who did not return calls.

Ampleton Company of Taiwan was also named because it designed, manufactured, sold and distributed the scooters. Its officials did not immediately return e-mails.

Both companies are accused of failing to properly test the scooters, install safety mechanisms and prevent steering defects.

Elizabeth Henn and Anthony Velardocchia, two Hernando County residents, were named as defendants because they sold the scooters the Abramowicz boys were using. Neither Henn nor Velardocchia could be reached for comment.

The defendants have yet to file a legal response to the lawsuit, which specifies no dollar amount.

"All the money in the world is not going to bring my baby back. I just want my son back and I guess that isn't going to happen," Costa said Tuesday. "It's been hell for me."

Costa said she had been planning to take the scooters back to the store on the Saturday of the week the accident occurred.

Stewart had been having minor problems with the steering, she said, and was carrying an allen wrench in his pocket at the time of the accident. She didn't ask the boys to park the scooters because she didn't think the problem was serious.

When asked about the defendants, Costa said she didn't believe the owners of the Beanie business should be named in the suit. "They're just small businessmen," Costa said. "I don't believe in that."

Eventually, Costa referred questions about the case to her lawyer, Stephen Malove of Miami, who did not return calls.

In the wake of Stewart Abramowicz's death, a skate park is being built in a park along Pinehurst Drive not far from where the accident occurred.

_ Staff writer Robert King covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to rkingsptimes.com.

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