Swimming with the Stars

Stop the Presses

Are you listening Pembroke Pines and Hallandale Beach (two cities now considering installing red-light cameras)?

Next Stop, Hong Kong

The stars may be gone (or hiding out at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino), but the past does seem to hang around in Fort Lauderdale.

Julie Perry, 33, a former yacht stewardess who served the likes of Richard Branson, was having a smashing time on a New Year's Eve pub crawl when she and a friend hopped into a rickshaw on the beach. How devil-may-care on a festive occasion! But as the operator pedaled across Las Olas Bridge, a vehicle came out of the dark and plowed into the commercial pedi-cab.

Perry was thrown 15 feet across the bridge, leaving her with a broken clavicle, a fractured skull, a fractured pelvis, a nice concussion, and an ever-increasing pile of medical bills. Aside from the broken bones, Perry has been left deaf in her right ear and partially paralyzed on the right side of her face.

"I can't blink," she told Tailpipe the other day. "I have to carry eye drops everywhere I go."

For the average citizen, an odd, anomalous little story. (Rickshaws? How quaint. Here?) For Perry, damn near a tragedy.

She should certainly have a little compensation coming her way. Unfortunately, the vehicle that caused the accident fled, and no witnesses have come forward to identify it. So, it's the pedi-cab company that will have to cough up some medical benefits.

Sure, Kevin Green, owner of Elite Bicycles, including the pedi-cab in question, had an insurance policy. But when Perry followed up on that, the policy turned out to be an empty shell.

In addition, Green, who couldn't be reached for comment, has an apparently spotty past. In 2005 he approached the City of Fort Lauderdale with a request for permits to operate pedi-cabs. According to city documents, officials had some questions about Green's alleged record. Police raised enough questions that they denied a recommendation to award him the permits. In a police memorandum to the Community Services Advisory Board, police described a history that includes an assault near the beach and battery on a police officer.

Despite the police recommendation for denial, the board and, later, the City Commission voted to approve his permits. No one in the city apparently called to confirm Green's insurance policy.

Perry and the friend she was riding with, Suki Finnerty, are planning to file a civil action against the city, Green, and the driver of the pedi-cab. Finnerty's lawyer, Dino Galardi, is doubtful about the outcome.

"Mr. Green has no insurance," Galardi says. "I don't know what kind of assets he has. From what I've been able to ascertain, he's sort of a flim-flam character." And as far as the city's concerned? "I don't see any clear-cut liability. My gut reaction is that it may not be worth pursuing."

Meanwhile, Perry's left arm still doesn't work right, and she's out of work.

Says Perry: "I'm beginning to think it takes either connections or a lot of money to get anything done in this town."

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