Family of mother killed by falling limb files wrongful death suit

Branch caused fatal head injury to 26-year-old in July 2015

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The family of a 26-year-old mother killed by a falling tree limb at the Poe Springs Park in High Springs has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Alachua County nearly two years after her death.

Briana Giunta was taken to a Gainesville hospital July 5, 2015, after the limb fell at the park, which is about 30 minutes northwest of Gainesville. She died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

According to a news release from the family's attorneys, Giunta was walking on the park's boardwalk with her fiance, Andreau Garcia, and her three young children when the large tree branch fell, partially crushing her skull and causing a massive traumatic brain injury.

Giunta was one of three people injured by the limb, which fell just after 2:30 p.m. The other two had only minor injuries and refused transportion to the hospital.

Garcia and the children witnessed the event but were not hurt.

Attorney Dan Vazquez filed a lawsuit June 14 on behalf of Giunta's children seeking damages from the county's parks department for medical bills, funeral expense and “full and fair reimbursement” to the children, who were ages 5, 3 and 1 when Giunta died.

The lawsuit alleges that the county’s park management department failed to conduct any inspection of the trees’ health along the boardwalk or any maintenance of dead or dying trees, including the diseased tree that killed Giunta.

An arborist tree expert retained by Vazquez issued a report finding that the county failed to meet park maintenance standards, that the tree that killed Giunta clearly suffered from extensive disease, rot, and had died, and that the tree should have been identified and removed by park maintenance staff long before the branch fell.

The lawsuit also alleges that similar limbs had fallen in the boardwalk area before, and that the county had notice of the problem but failed to correct the danger or post any signs along the boardwalk warning visitors of the danger.

The boardwalk connects a main picnic pavilion to the swimming area at Poe Springs Park.

Investigators said Giunta's death was the result of a freak accident and added that storms the night before contributed to the tree limb falling.

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