Olympic Speed Skaters File Miami-Dade Lawsuit, Win Settlement

Miami's an unlikely place for a pair of winter Olympians to end up. Back in 2008, a glimpse of bronze medalist speed skater Jennifer Rodriguez with husband KC Boutiette was a lot like spotting a polar bear in South Beach. The couple, who recently divorced, was one of the city's rare claims to Winter Olympics athletic fame.

On April 10, 2008 Homero Zeledon -- a 20-year-old from Richmond Heights -- caught more than a glimpse of the duo. He ran straight into them. According to police reports, at 5:45 a.m. Zeledon was driving a 1998 Ford south on State Road 5, when he "failed to stop at a red light." He plowed into Rodriguez's black 2002 Volvo sedan at the intersection of Southwest 114th street going 45 miles per hour. The couple was on the way to training. Boutiette, who has no traffic infractions on record, was driving.

The crash turned Rodriguez's car into a crumpled heap of metal and caused Boutiette - who is a four-time Olympic speedskater - to suffer a herniated disk in his back.

Last week, the couple won a settlement for an undisclosed amount of money. Part of the reason: Spinal damage from the accident could keep Boutiette from ever competing ever again.

"It's a career-ending injury," says his lawyer Spencer Marc Aronfeld. "You hate to tell that to a guy like [Boutiette]. He's gonna go for it anyway."

Last October, the athletes filed a lawsuit against Zeledon. The complaint notes he "negligently operated" his vehicle, causing Boutiette "pain, suffering, disability, and disfigurement." It also claimed the skater lost "capacity for the enjoyment of life" and "ability to earn money." It makes no note of Rodriugez suffering physical injury.
Boutiette missed Olympic trails in December because of his back. A month later, he had spinal surgery. His medical care cost more than $70,000, according to his lawyers. Attorney John Korf, who represents Zeledon, did not return phone calls seeking comment last week.

Boutiette cancelled an interview with New Times at the last minute, noting he didn't feel comfortable discussing the case. Rodriguez also declined to comment.

Later, Aronfeld explained Boutiette has been "upset emotionally" and has gone through a form of "endorphin withdrawal" from not being able to exercise.

As for Zeledon? The crash doesn't seem to have phased him much. Three months afterwards, he was handed a criminal traffic charge for leaving the scene of different accident.