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. 8 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, 109 110 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 111 112 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.