Florida Senate - 2019 (NP) SB 166 By Senator Diaz 36-00623-19 2019166__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Dontrell Stephens through 3 Evett L. Simmons, as guardian of his property, by the 4 Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office; providing for an 5 appropriation to compensate him for personal injuries 6 and damages sustained as the result of the negligence 7 of a deputy of the office; providing a limitation on 8 the payment of compensation, fees, and costs; 9 providing an effective date. 10 11 WHEREAS, on September 13, 2013, Dontrell Stephens, then age 12 20, was shot four times by Palm Beach County Deputy Sheriff 13 Adams Lin during an encounter in West Palm Beach, and 14 WHEREAS, the last of the bullets fired at Mr. Stephens 15 entered his back, severing his spinal cord and rendering him 16 permanently paraplegic, and 17 WHEREAS, during testimony at trial, Deputy Lin stated that 18 he mistook a cell phone, which was clearly visible throughout 19 the encounter with Mr. Stephens, for a handgun, testimony that 20 was found to be not credible and was unanimously rejected by the 21 jury, and 22 WHEREAS, Mr. Stephens’ testimony, corroborated by video 23 from Deputy Lin’s dashboard camera and physical evidence at the 24 scene, establishes that the only offense committed by Mr. 25 Stephens was a noncriminal bicycle infraction, that he was 26 unarmed, and that he posed no reasonable threat to Deputy Lin, 27 and 28 WHEREAS, Mr. Stephens, through no fault of his own, and 29 based solely on the wrongful conduct of an agent of the Palm 30 Beach County Sheriff’s Office, suffered permanent and 31 catastrophic injuries that will force him to use a wheelchair 32 for the remainder of his life, and 33 WHEREAS, Mr. Stephens currently resides in a homeless 34 shelter and relies exclusively on public assistance and hospital 35 emergency room services to meet his extensive health care needs, 36 and 37 WHEREAS, Mr. Stephens will require a lifetime of medical, 38 therapeutic, rehabilitative, and nursing care, and his future 39 life expectancy exceeds 50 years, and 40 WHEREAS, following a trial that lasted from January 25, 41 2016, until February 4, 2016, the jury in the case, brought on 42 behalf of Mr. Stephens against Ric Bradshaw in his capacity as 43 Sheriff of Palm Beach County, awarded Mr. Stephens compensatory 44 damages resulting in the entry of a final judgment in the amount 45 of $22,431,892.05, plus postjudgment interest and costs, and 46 WHEREAS, in an opinion rendered on January 10, 2018, with 47 rehearing en banc denied on September 10, 2018, the United 48 States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the 49 factual findings and the judgment of the trial court in the 50 case, and 51 WHEREAS, in the 5 years since being paralyzed, Mr. Stephens 52 has incurred more than $1.4 million in unpaid expenses for his 53 care and treatment, and 54 WHEREAS, the costs incurred in the prosecution of the 55 claims on behalf of Mr. Stephens exceed $260,000, with $60,000 56 remaining to be paid, and 57 WHEREAS, in accordance with the statutory limits of 58 liability set forth in s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, Ric 59 Bradshaw, in his capacity as Sheriff of Palm Beach County, has 60 paid $200,000 toward the total amount of this claim, NOW, 61 THEREFORE, 62 63 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 64 65 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 66 found and declared to be true. 67 Section 2. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is 68 authorized and directed to appropriate from funds of the Palm 69 Beach County Sheriff’s Office not otherwise encumbered and to 70 draw a warrant in the sum of $22,431,892.05 plus post-judgment 71 interest as ordered in the final judgment, along with remaining 72 costs in the amount of $60,000, payable to Evett L. Simmons, as 73 guardian of the property of Dontrell Stephens, as compensation 74 for injuries and damages sustained. 75 Section 3. The amount paid by the Palm Beach County 76 Sheriff’s Office pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and 77 the amount awarded under this act are intended to provide the 78 sole compensation for all present and future claims arising out 79 of the factual situation described in this act which resulted in 80 injuries suffered by Dontrell Stephens. The total amount paid 81 for attorney fees relating to this claim may not exceed 25 82 percent of the amount awarded under this act. 83 Section 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.