HB 445

A bill to be entitled
2An act for the relief of Eric Brody by the Broward
3County Sheriff's Office; providing for an
4appropriation to compensate Eric Brody for injuries
5sustained as a result of the negligence of the Broward
6County Sheriff's Office; authorizing the Sheriff of
7Broward County, in lieu of payment, to execute to Eric
8Brody and his legal guardians an assignment of all
9claims that the Broward County Sheriff's Office has
10against its insurer arising out of the insurer's
11handling of the claim against the sheriff's office;
12clarifying that such assignment does not impair the
13ability or right of the assignees to pursue the final
14judgment and cost judgment against the insurer;
15providing a limitation on the payment of fees and
16costs related to the claim against the Broward County
17Sheriff's Office and an exception to that limitation
18as to any assigned claims brought against the insurer;
19providing an effective date.
21     WHEREAS, on the evening of March 3, 1998, 18-year-old Eric
22Brody, a college-bound high school senior, was returning home
23from his part-time job at the Sawgrass Mills Sports Authority.
24Eric was driving his 1982 AMC Concord eastbound on Oakland Park
25Boulevard in Sunrise, Florida, and
26     WHEREAS, that same evening, Broward County Sheriff's Deputy
27Christopher Thieman, who had been visiting his girlfriend and
28was running late for duty, was driving his Broward County
29Sheriff's Office cruiser westbound on Oakland Park Boulevard. At
30the time he left his girlfriend's house, Deputy Thieman had less
31than 15 minutes to travel 11 miles to make roll call on time,
32which was mandatory pursuant to sheriff's office policy and
33procedure, and
34     WHEREAS, at approximately 10:36 p.m., Eric Brody began to
35make a left-hand turn into his neighborhood at the intersection
36of N.W. 117th Avenue and Oakland Park Boulevard. Deputy Thieman,
37who was driving in excess of the 45-mile-per-hour posted speed
38limit and traveling in the opposite direction, was not within
39the intersection and was more than 430 feet away from Eric
40Brody's car when Eric Brody began the turn. Eric Brody's car
41cleared two of the three westbound lanes on Oakland Park
42Boulevard, and
43     WHEREAS, Deputy Thieman, who was traveling in the inside
44westbound lane closest to the median, suddenly and inexplicably
45steered his vehicle to the right, across the center lane and
46into the outside lane, where the front end of his car struck the
47passenger side of Eric's car with great force, just behind the
48right front wheel and near the passenger door, and
49     WHEREAS, Deputy Thieman testified at trial that although he
50knew that the posted speed limit was 45 miles per hour, he
51refused to provide an estimate as to how fast he was traveling
52before the crash, and
53     WHEREAS, despite the appearance of a conflict of interest,
54the Broward County Sheriff's Office chose to conduct the
55official crash investigation instead of deferring to the City of
56Sunrise Police Department, which also had jurisdiction, or the
57Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), which often investigates motor
58vehicle collisions involving non-FHP law enforcement officers so
59as to avoid any possible conflict of interest, and
60     WHEREAS, in the course of the investigation, the Broward
61County Sheriff's Office lost key evidence from the crashed
62vehicles and did not report any witnesses even though the first
63responders to the crash scene were police officers from the City
64of Sunrise, and
65     WHEREAS, the Broward County detective who led the crash
66investigation entered inaccurate data into a computerized
67accident reconstruction program which skewed the speed that
68Deputy Thieman was driving, but, nevertheless, determined that
69he was still traveling well over the speed limit, and
70     WHEREAS, accident reconstruction experts called by both
71parties testified that Deputy Thieman was driving at least 60 to
72more than 70 miles per hour when his vehicle slammed into the
73passenger side of Eric Brody's car, and
74     WHEREAS, Eric Brody was found unconscious 6 minutes later
75by paramedics, his head and upper torso leaning upright and
76toward the passenger-side door. Although he was out of his
77shoulder harness and seat belt by the time paramedics arrived,
78the Brody's attorney proved that Eric was wearing his seat belt
79and that the 16-year-old seat belt buckle failed during the
80crash. Photographs taken at the scene by the sheriff's office
81investigators showed the belt to be fully spooled out because
82the retractor was jammed, with the belt dangling outside the
83vehicle from the driver-side door, providing proof that Eric
84Brody was wearing his seat belt and shoulder harness during the
85crash, and
86     WHEREAS, accident reconstruction and human factor experts
87called by both the plaintiff and the defendant agreed that if
88Deputy Thieman had been driving at the speed limit, Eric Brody
89would have easily completed his turn, and
90     WHEREAS, the experts also agreed that if Deputy Thieman had
91simply remained within his lane of travel, regardless of his
92speed, there would not have been a collision, and
93     WHEREAS, in order to investigate the seat-belt defense,
94experts for Eric Brody recreated the accident using an exact
95car-to-car crash test that was conducted by a nationally
96recognized crash test facility. The crash test involved vehicles
97identical to the Brody and Thieman vehicles, a fully
98instrumented hybrid III dummy, and high-speed action cameras,
100     WHEREAS, the crash test proved that Eric Brody was wearing
101his restraint system during the crash because the seat-belted
102test dummy struck its head on the passenger door within inches
103of where Eric Brody's head actually struck the passenger door,
105     WHEREAS, when Eric Brody's head struck the passenger door
106of his vehicle, the door crushed inward from the force of the
107impact with the police cruiser while at the same time his upper
108torso was moving toward the point of impact and the passenger
109door. The impact resulted in skull fractures and massive brain
110sheering, bleeding, bruising, and swelling, and
111     WHEREAS, Eric Brody was airlifted by helicopter to Broward
112General Hospital where he was placed on a ventilator and
113underwent an emergency craniotomy and neurosurgery. He began to
114recover from a deep coma more than 7 months after his injury and
115underwent extensive rehabilitation, having to relearn how to
116walk, talk, feed himself, and perform other basic functions, and
117     WHEREAS, Eric Brody, who is now 32 years old, has been left
118profoundly brain-injured, lives with his parents, and is mostly
119isolated from his former friends and other young people his age.
120His speech is barely intelligible and he has significant
121cognitive dysfunction, judgment impairment, memory loss, and
122neuro-visual disabilities. Eric Brody also has impaired fine and
123gross motor skills and very poor balance. Although Eric is able
124to use a walker for short distances, he mostly uses a wheelchair
125to get around. The entire left side of his body is partially
126paralyzed and spastic, and he needs help with many of his daily
127functions. Eric Brody is permanently and totally disabled;
128however, he has a normal life expectancy, and
129     WHEREAS, the cost of Eric Brody's life care plan is nearly
130$10 million, and he has been left totally dependent on public
131health programs and taxpayer assistance since 1998, and
132     WHEREAS, the Broward County Sheriff's Office was insured
133for this claim through Ranger Insurance Company and paid a
134premium of more than $400,000 for liability coverage, and
135     WHEREAS, on December 1, 2005, after a 2-month trial, a
136Broward County jury consisting of three men and three women
137found that that Deputy Thieman and the Broward County Sheriff's
138Office were 100 percent negligent, and Eric Brody was not
139comparatively negligent, and
140     WHEREAS, the jury found Eric Brody's damages to be
141$30,609,298, including a determination that his past and future
142care and other economic damages were $11,326,216, and
143     WHEREAS, final judgment was entered for $30,609,298, and
144the court entered a cost judgment for $270,372.30, for a total
145of $30,879,670.30, and
146     WHEREAS, the court denied the Broward County Sheriff's
147Office posttrial motions for judgment notwithstanding the
148verdict, new trial, or remittitur, and
149     WHEREAS, the insurer of the Broward County Sheriff's Office
150retained appellate counsel and elected to appeal the final
151judgment but not the cost judgment, and
152     WHEREAS, the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the
153verdict in the fall of 2007, and
154     WHEREAS, the insurer of the Broward County Sheriff's Office
155subsequently petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to seek
156another appeal, but the petition was denied in April of 2008,
158     WHEREAS, all legal remedies for all parties involved have
159been exhausted and this case is ripe for a claim bill, and
160     WHEREAS, the Broward County Sheriff's Office has paid
161$200,000 pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the final
162judgment and cost judgment remainder in the amount of
163$30,679,670.30 is sought through the submission of a claim bill
164to the Legislature, NOW, THEREFORE,
166Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
168     Section 1.  The facts stated in the preamble to this act
169are found and declared to be true.
170     Section 2.  The Sheriff of Broward County is authorized and
171directed to appropriate from funds of the Broward County
172Sheriff's Office not otherwise appropriated and to draw a
173warrant payable to Eric Brody in the sum of $30,679,670.30 in
174accordance with the final judgment and cost judgment as provided
175for in the preamble of this act as compensation for injuries and
176damages sustained as a result of the negligence of the Broward
177County Sheriff's Office.
178     Section 3.  The amount paid by the Broward County Sheriff's
179Office pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount
180awarded under this act are intended to provide the sole
181compensation for all claims against the Broward County Sheriff's
182Office arising out of the facts described in this act which
183resulted in the injuries to Eric Brody. The total amount of
184attorney's fees, lobbying fees, costs, and other similar
185expenses relating to the claim against the Broward County
186Sheriff's Office may not exceed 25 percent of the total amount
187awarded under section 2 of this act.
188     Section 4.  It is the intent of the Legislature that the
189lien interests held by the state resulting from the treatment
190and care of Eric Brody for the injuries caused by the events
191described in the preamble of this act are not waived or
192extinguished, and the claimant's guardianship shall reimburse
193the state the amount that is in exact proportion to the
194percentage of Eric Brody's claims bill recovery based on the
195full amount of his damages, which is the sum of $30,679,670.30
196and all amounts that remain unpaid in accordance with the final
197judgment and cost judgment, as provided for in the preamble and
198section 2 of this act.
199     Section 5.  This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.

CODING: Words stricken are deletions; words underlined are additions.