Battered by lawsuits claiming sexual harassment, secret sexual liaisons, and other scandalous allegations, Felipe Valls Sr., patriarch of the iconic Cuban restaurant Versailles, may never show up in court.
In March 2014, Valls Sr., along with Cova Inc., was named in a whistleblower and defamation lawsuit. Now, attorneys for Valls claim their client is too sick to talk. In a document filed March 20, 2015, in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, the 82-year-old Versailles owner has been medically diagnosed with a series of ailments including peripheral neuropathy of the legs, hypertension, arrhythmia, and obesity, which has caused "compression of his spinal cord and renders him unable to sit for long periods of time without experiencing extreme back pain and which also results in numbness and weakness of the legs."
The document explains Valls has been hospitalized several times, most recently March 19, when he was treated by Baptist Health Medical Group. The injury sustained from falls, "together with the morbid obesity, has facilitated the development of a severe lumbar painful syndrome rendering him with significant difficulty to ambulate and carry out activities of daily living." The document goes on to say Valls has been deemed "completely incapacitated" and is on bed rest and home physical therapy for three to four weeks. According to Dr. Doraiswami Ayyar, Valls "does not have the physical or mental stamina necessary to endure one or two days of deposition or the time necessary to prepare for deposition."
Attorneys for Valls request a protective order postponing the deposition until "such time as Mr. Valls' health is not placed at such high risk by proceeding."
In an email, Pelayo M. Duran, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, told New Times: "Given the fact that we have been attempting to depose Mr. Felipe Valls Sr. since June of 2014, we are gravely concerned for his health since he appears to be suffering from a very serious health condition. We intend to push forward to secure his videotaped testimony as soon as possible, in order to preserve it for trial, in the event his health should further deteriorate."
A follow-up hearing is scheduled for April 27. At that time, the defense council is expected to report on Valls' health status and availability for deposition. New Times has called Valls' attorney for comment and will update this story with information as we receive it.
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The original complaint was filed in Miami-Dade Civil Court on behalf of former Versailles general manager Rigoberto Hernandez and Adriam Mena, a former waiter at the restaurant. The lawsuit lists numerous charges the two men claim they witnessed at the famous eatery, including sexual harassment, wage theft, and voiding the receipts of prominent members of the community, naming Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart as examples.
The lawsuit alleges Versailles owner Felipe Valls Sr. and his son Felipe Valls Jr. made remarks about the masculinity of Hernandez and Mena — "making fun of the colorful way Hernandez dressed and that Mena should stop walking in an effeminate manner." The plaintiffs claim Valls also "falsely and maliciously accused Hernandez of having a sexual relationship with Mena" and accused the men of conspiring to steal cash from the business by excessively voiding and discounting customer purchases. The two men also say they were demoted, suspended, and threatened with arrest before eventually being terminated.
Valls Sr. is mentioned in another lawsuit, filed August 29, 2014, which claims the restaurant owner engaged in sexual misconduct with a woman employed as a cashier at the Versailles cafeteria at Miami International Airport. The suit names Global Concessions Inc., Gateway Airport Concessions Inc., and Airport Concessions Group Inc., all d/b/a Global Miami Joint Venture, as defendants. Although the lawsuit claims Valls had "a private office in the restaurant that contained a bed and bathroom and was littered with sex toys and sex paraphernalia," he is not listed as a defendant. An order of dismissal for the case was filed October 29, 2014.