Florida Senate - 2013                                      SB 42
       By Senator Braynon
       36-00040-13                                             201342__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act for the relief of Ramiro Companioni by the City
    3         of Tampa; providing for an appropriation to compensate
    4         Ramiro Companioni for injuries sustained as a result
    5         of negligence by an employee of the City of Tampa;
    6         providing a limitation on the payment of fees and
    7         costs; providing an effective date.
    9         WHEREAS, on November 22, 1996, at approximately noon, 34
   10  year-old Ramiro Companioni was operating his motorcycle in the
   11  inside eastbound lane of East Hillsborough Avenue near its
   12  intersection with North 50th Street, when a City of Tampa Water
   13  Department truck operated by a city employee, Faustino Pierola,
   14  accompanied by two other similar vehicles owned by the city and
   15  operated by city employees, pulled into the outside eastbound
   16  lane from the south shoulder of Hillsborough Avenue and steered
   17  across three lanes of traffic into the path of Mr. Companioni,
   18  and
   19         WHEREAS, although Ramiro Companioni attempted to avoid the
   20  collision by laying down his motorcycle, he and his motorcycle
   21  struck the rear of the city-owned truck, violently ejecting him
   22  from the motorcycle and onto the payment, causing him massive
   23  and catastrophic injuries, and
   24         WHEREAS, an independent eyewitness interviewed at the scene
   25  told the traffic accident investigators that he witnessed the
   26  city-owned truck pull away from the shoulder and steer across
   27  the lanes of traffic into the lane in which Ramiro Companioni
   28  was travelling, and
   29         WHEREAS, the eyewitness estimated that Ramiro Companioni
   30  had been travelling at a speed of 40 miles per hour as he
   31  approached the city-owned truck, well within the maximum speed
   32  limit of 45 miles per hour, and
   33         WHEREAS, the eyewitness stated that the driver of the city
   34  owned truck, Faustino Pierola, was the cause of the accident,
   35  and
   36         WHEREAS, additional witnesses testified that the three
   37  truck caravan owned and operated by the city appeared to be a
   38  “wagon train” and that by steering directly into the inside lane
   39  Ramiro Companioni, who was driving within the speed limit, was
   40  “cut off” by the trucks and had “nowhere to go,” and
   41         WHEREAS, Faustino Pierola, the City of Tampa employee
   42  responsible for the accident, admitted that he failed to observe
   43  any oncoming traffic despite no obstructions, an even roadway,
   44  and clear visibility, indicating that he was negligent by
   45  failing to properly look for oncoming traffic, and
   46         WHEREAS, despite the obvious conflict of interest, the City
   47  of Tampa Police Department failed to call in an independent law
   48  enforcement agency to conduct the official traffic accident
   49  investigation and attributed fault to Faustino Pierola as well
   50  as Ramiro Companioni, opining that Ramiro Companioni may have
   51  been operating his vehicle in excess of the speed limit even
   52  though independent eyewitnesses testified that Ramiro Companioni
   53  was operating his vehicle lawfully and within the speed limit,
   54  and
   55         WHEREAS, city employees at the scene, including Faustino
   56  Pierola, did not testify that Ramiro Companioni was operating
   57  his vehicle in excess of the maximum speed limit, and
   58         WHEREAS, as a result of the collision, Ramiro Companioni
   59  was rendered unconscious and suffered massive catastrophic
   60  injuries, including coma; multiple internal lacerations of the
   61  midsection organs resulting in the loss of the large intestine
   62  and necessitating a colostomy and urethral catheter; removal of
   63  the spleen; multiple fractures of his right hip and four spinal
   64  vertebra; the severance of the right sciatic nerve causing loss
   65  of control of the right hip, leg, and foot; laceration and
   66  partial severance of the urethra and testicles; and multiple
   67  lacerations and abrasions from contact with the road surface
   68  causing permanent scarring and disfigurement, and
   69         WHEREAS, Ramiro Companioni’s permanent injuries include
   70  fusions of his hips and lower back, surgeries of the midsection
   71  to repair the abdomen, multiple bouts of sepsis and infection,
   72  reattachment of the urethra and testicles, severe concussion
   73  syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and
   74         WHEREAS, Ramiro Companioni’s medical expenses amounted to
   75  more than $1.2 million, and
   76         WHEREAS, Ramiro Companioni, who was an executive chef at
   77  the time of the accident, has suffered a loss of earnings and
   78  his earning capacity has been devastated, and
   79         WHEREAS, although permanently disabled, Ramiro Companioni
   80  has persevered and attempted to support himself by operating a
   81  hot dog stand at Tampa Bay Buccaneer games and other crowd
   82  events, and
   83         WHEREAS, at the time of the accident, Ramiro Companioni was
   84  an active, physically fit man in the prime of his life and had
   85  served his country as a Third Class Naval Reservist in a special
   86  unit attached to a Marine Corps and Navy Seal Assault Landing
   87  Craft Unit, and
   88         WHEREAS, on March 26, 2004, a Hillsborough County jury
   89  found the City of Tampa, by and through its employee, Faustino
   90  Pierola, to be negligent and 90 percent at fault for the
   91  accident and causing the injuries to Ramiro Companioni, and
   92  found Ramiro Companioni to be 10 percent comparatively
   93  negligent, and
   94         WHEREAS, the jury determined Ramiro Companioni’s damages to
   95  be in the amount of $17,928,800, and
   96         WHEREAS, final judgment was entered on April 5, 2004, in
   97  the amount of the jury verdict, plus interest at the statutory
   98  rate of 7 percent per annum, and
   99         WHEREAS, following multiple posttrial motions and appeals,
  100  which have denied Ramiro Companioni justice for nearly 10 years,
  101  the Florida Supreme Court and the Second District Court of
  102  Appeal upheld the verdict and final judgment, and
  103         WHEREAS, the City of Tampa has paid $100,000, which is the
  104  sovereign immunity limit applicable to this case, leaving a
  105  remaining balance of $17,828,800 for which Ramiro Companioni
  106  seeks satisfaction, and
  107         WHEREAS, all legal remedies have been exhausted, NOW,
  108  THERFORE,
  110  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  112         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
  113  found and declared to be true.
  114         Section 2. The City of Tampa is authorized and directed to
  115  appropriate from funds of the city not otherwise appropriated
  116  and to draw a warrant in the amount of $17,828,800, payable to
  117  Ramiro Companioni, as compensation for injuries and damages
  118  sustained as a result of the negligence of an employee of the
  119  City of Tampa.
  120         Section 3. The amount paid by the City of Tampa pursuant to
  121  s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and this award are intended to
  122  provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims
  123  arising out of the factual situation described in this act which
  124  resulted in the injuries and damages sustained by Ramiro
  125  Companioni. The total amount paid for attorney fees, lobbying
  126  fees, costs, and other similar expenses relating to this claim
  127  may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded under this act.
  128         Section 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.