Florida Senate - 2012 (NP) CS for SB 4 By the Committee on Rules; and Senator Benacquisto 595-00976-12 20124c1 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Eric Brody by the Broward 3 County Sheriff’s Office; providing for an 4 appropriation to compensate Eric Brody for injuries 5 sustained as a result of the negligence of the Broward 6 County Sheriff’s Office; providing a limitation on the 7 payment of fees and costs related to the claim against 8 the Broward County Sheriff’s Office; providing 9 legislative intent regarding lien interests held by 10 the state; requiring that the guardianship pay a 11 portion of such liens before distributing funds to the 12 claimant; providing an effective date. 13 14 WHEREAS, on the evening of March 3, 1998, 18-year-old Eric 15 Brody, a college-bound high school senior, was returning home 16 from his part-time job at the Sawgrass Mills Sports Authority. 17 Eric was driving his 1982 AMC Concord eastbound on Oakland Park 18 Boulevard in Sunrise, Florida, and 19 WHEREAS, that same evening, Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy 20 Christopher Thieman, who had been visiting his girlfriend and 21 was running late for duty, was driving his Broward County 22 Sheriff’s Office cruiser westbound on Oakland Park Boulevard. At 23 the time he left his girlfriend’s house, Deputy Thieman had less 24 than 15 minutes to travel 11 miles to make roll call on time, 25 which was mandatory pursuant to sheriff’s office policy and 26 procedure, and 27 WHEREAS, at approximately 10:36 p.m., Eric Brody began to 28 make a left-hand turn into his neighborhood at the intersection 29 of N.W. 117th Avenue and Oakland Park Boulevard. Deputy Thieman, 30 who was driving in excess of the 45-mile-per-hour posted speed 31 limit and traveling in the opposite direction, was not within 32 the intersection and was more than 430 feet away from Eric 33 Brody’s car when Eric Brody began the turn. Eric Brody’s car 34 cleared two of the three westbound lanes on Oakland Park 35 Boulevard, and 36 WHEREAS, Deputy Thieman, who was traveling in the inside 37 westbound lane closest to the median, suddenly and inexplicably 38 steered his vehicle to the right, across the center lane and 39 into the outside lane, where the front end of his car struck the 40 passenger side of Eric’s car with great force, just behind the 41 right front wheel and near the passenger door, and 42 WHEREAS, Deputy Thieman testified at trial that although he 43 knew that the posted speed limit was 45 miles per hour, he 44 refused to provide an estimate as to how fast he was traveling 45 before the crash, and 46 WHEREAS, in the course of the investigation, the Broward 47 County Sheriff’s Office lost key evidence from the crashed 48 vehicles and did not report any witnesses even though the first 49 responders to the crash scene were police officers from the City 50 of Sunrise, and 51 WHEREAS, the Broward County detective who led the crash 52 investigation entered inaccurate data into a computerized 53 accident reconstruction program which skewed the speed that 54 Deputy Thieman was driving, but, nevertheless, determined that 55 he was still traveling well over the speed limit, and 56 WHEREAS, accident reconstruction experts called by both 57 parties testified that Deputy Thieman was driving at least 60 to 58 more than 70 miles per hour when his vehicle slammed into the 59 passenger side of Eric Brody’s car, and 60 WHEREAS, Eric Brody was found unconscious 6 minutes later 61 by paramedics, his head and upper torso leaning upright and 62 toward the passenger-side door. Although he was out of his 63 shoulder harness and seat belt by the time paramedics arrived, 64 the Brody’s attorney proved that Eric was wearing his seat belt 65 and that the 16-year-old seat belt buckle failed during the 66 crash. Photographs taken at the scene by the sheriff’s office 67 investigators showed the belt to be fully spooled out because 68 the retractor was jammed, with the belt dangling outside the 69 vehicle from the driver-side door, providing proof that Eric 70 Brody was wearing his seat belt and shoulder harness during the 71 crash, and 72 WHEREAS, accident reconstruction and human factor experts 73 called by both the plaintiff and the defendant agreed that if 74 Deputy Thieman been driving at the speed limit, Eric Brody would 75 have easily completed his turn, and 76 WHEREAS, the experts also agreed that if Deputy Thieman 77 simply remained within his lane of travel, regardless of his 78 speed, there would not have been a collision, and 79 WHEREAS, in order to investigate the seat-belt defense, 80 experts for Eric Brody recreated the accident using an exact 81 car-to-car crash test that was conducted by a nationally 82 recognized crash test facility. The crash test involved vehicles 83 identical to the Brody and Thieman vehicles, a fully 84 instrumented hybrid III dummy, and high-speed action cameras, 85 and 86 WHEREAS, the crash test proved that Eric Brody was wearing 87 his restraint system during the crash because the seat-belted 88 test dummy struck its head on the passenger door within inches 89 of where Eric Brody’s head actually struck the passenger door, 90 and 91 WHEREAS, when Eric Brody’s head struck the passenger door 92 of his vehicle, the door crushed inward from the force of the 93 impact with the police cruiser while at the same time his upper 94 torso was moving toward the point of impact and the passenger 95 door. The impact resulted in skull fractures and massive brain 96 sheering, bleeding, bruising, and swelling, and 97 WHEREAS, Eric Brody was airlifted by helicopter to Broward 98 General Hospital where he was placed on a ventilator and 99 underwent an emergency craniotomy and neurosurgery. He began to 100 recover from a deep coma more than 7 months after his injury and 101 underwent extensive rehabilitation, having to relearn how to 102 walk, talk, feed himself, and perform other basic functions, and 103 WHEREAS, Eric Brody, who is now 32 years old, has been left 104 profoundly brain-injured, lives with his parents, and is mostly 105 isolated from his former friends and other young people his age. 106 His speech is barely intelligible and he has significant 107 cognitive dysfunction, judgment impairment, memory loss, and 108 neuro-visual disabilities. Eric Brody also has impaired fine and 109 gross motor skills and very poor balance. Although Eric is able 110 to use a walker for short distances, he mostly uses a wheelchair 111 to get around. The entire left side of his body is partially 112 paralyzed and spastic, and he needs help with many of his daily 113 functions. Eric Brody is permanently and totally disabled; 114 however, he has a normal life expectancy, and 115 WHEREAS, the cost of Eric Brody’s life care plan is nearly 116 $10 million, and he has been left totally dependent on public 117 health programs and taxpayer assistance since 1998, and 118 WHEREAS, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office was insured 119 for this claim through Ranger Insurance Company and paid more 120 than $400,000 for liability coverage, and 121 WHEREAS, on December 1, 2005, after a 2-month trial, a 122 Broward County jury consisting of three men and three women 123 found that that Deputy Thieman and the Broward County Sheriff’s 124 Office were 100 percent negligent, and Eric Brody was not 125 comparatively negligent, and 126 WHEREAS, the jury found Eric Brody’s damages to be 127 $30,609,298, including a determination that his past and future 128 care and other economic damages were $11,326,216, and 129 WHEREAS, final judgment was entered for $30,609,298, and 130 the court entered a cost judgment for $270,372.30, for a total 131 of $30,879,670.30, and 132 WHEREAS, the court denied the Broward County Sheriff’s 133 Office posttrial motions for judgment notwithstanding the 134 verdict, new trial, or remittitur, and 135 WHEREAS, the insurer of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office 136 retained appellate counsel and elected to appeal the final 137 judgment but not the cost judgment, and 138 WHEREAS, the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the 139 verdict in the fall of 2007, and 140 WHEREAS, the insurer of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office 141 subsequently petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to seek 142 another appeal, but the petition was denied in April of 2008, 143 and 144 WHEREAS, all legal remedies for all parties involved have 145 been exhausted and this case is ripe for a claim bill, and 146 WHEREAS, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office has paid 147 $200,000 pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount 148 of $15,575,021.30 is sought through the submission of a claim 149 bill to the Legislature, NOW, THEREFORE, 150 151 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 152 153 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 154 found and declared to be true. 155 Section 2. The Sheriff of Broward County is authorized and 156 directed to appropriate from funds of the Broward County 157 Sheriff’s Office not otherwise appropriated and to draw a 158 warrant payable to the Guardianship of Eric Brody for one-half 159 of all amounts that remain unpaid in accordance with the final 160 judgment, plus the cost judgment, in the sum of $15,575,021.30 161 as compensation for injuries and damages sustained as a result 162 of the negligence of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. 163 Section 3. The amount to be paid by the Broward County 164 Sheriff’s Office pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and 165 the amount awarded under this act are intended to provide the 166 sole compensation for all claims arising out of the facts 167 described in this act which resulted in the injuries to Eric 168 Brody. The total amount of attorney fees, lobbying fees, costs, 169 and other similar expenses may not exceed 25 percent of the 170 total amount awarded under section 2 of this act. 171 Section 4. It is the intent of the Legislature that one 172 half of the lien interests held by the state resulting from the 173 treatment and care of Eric Brody for the events described in the 174 preamble of this act are not waived and extinguished, and the 175 claimant’s guardianship shall reimburse the state for one-half 176 of the expenses of Medicaid, Medicare, or the Agency for Health 177 Care Administration pursuant to s. 409.910, Florida Statutes. 178 The claimant’s guardianship shall pay the amount due pursuant to 179 this act prior to distributing any funds to the claimant. 180 Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.