Florida Senate - 2015                              (NP)    SB 56
       By Senator Braynon
       36-00076-15                                             201556__
    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         Mr. Companioni for injuries sustained as a result of
    5         the negligence of 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, at about noon on November 22, 1996, 34-year-old
   10  Ramiro Companioni was operating his motorcycle in the inside,
   11  eastbound lane of East Hillsborough Avenue near its intersection
   12  with North 50th Street, and
   13         WHEREAS, a City of Tampa Water Department truck operated by
   14  city employee Faustino Pierola, which was accompanied by two
   15  other similar vehicles owned by the city and operated by city
   16  employees, pulled into the outside, eastbound lane from the
   17  south shoulder of Hillsborough Avenue and steered across three
   18  lanes of traffic into the path of Mr. Companioni, and
   19         WHEREAS, although Mr. 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 onto the pavement, causing him massive and
   23  catastrophic injuries, and
   24         WHEREAS, an independent eyewitness interviewed at the scene
   25  told traffic accident investigators that he witnessed the city
   26  owned truck pull away from the shoulder and steer across the
   27  lanes of traffic into the lane in which Mr. Companioni was
   28  traveling, and
   29         WHEREAS, the eyewitness estimated that Mr. Companioni had
   30  been traveling at a speed of 40 miles per hour as he approached
   31  the city-owned truck, which was 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, Mr. Pierola, was the cause of the accident, and
   35         WHEREAS, additional witnesses testified that the three
   36  truck caravan owned and operated by the city appeared to be a
   37  “wagon train,” and that Mr. Companioni was “cut off” by the
   38  trucks and had “nowhere to go,” and
   39         WHEREAS, Mr. Pierola admitted that he failed to observe any
   40  oncoming traffic despite an even roadway, clear visibility, and
   41  the absence of obstructions, indicating that he was negligent by
   42  failing to properly look for oncoming traffic, and
   43         WHEREAS, despite an obvious conflict of interest, the City
   44  of Tampa Police Department failed to call in an independent law
   45  enforcement agency to conduct the official traffic accident
   46  investigation and attributed fault to both Mr. Pierola and Mr.
   47  Companioni, opining that, despite eyewitness testimony to the
   48  contrary, Mr. Companioni may have been operating his vehicle in
   49  excess of the speed limit, and
   50         WHEREAS, city employees at the scene, including Mr.
   51  Pierola, did not testify that Mr. Companioni was operating his
   52  vehicle in excess of the maximum speed limit, and
   53         WHEREAS, as a result of the collision, Mr. Companioni was
   54  rendered unconscious and suffered massive catastrophic injuries,
   55  including coma; multiple internal lacerations of the midsection
   56  organs resulting in the loss of the large intestine and
   57  necessitating a colostomy and urethral catheter; removal of the
   58  spleen; multiple fractures of his right hip and four spinal
   59  vertebra; a severed right sciatic nerve, resulting in loss of
   60  control of the right hip, leg, and foot; laceration and partial
   61  severance of the urethra and testicles; and multiple lacerations
   62  and abrasions from contact with the road surface causing
   63  permanent scarring and disfigurement, and
   64         WHEREAS, Mr. Companioni’s permanent injuries include
   65  fusions of his hips and lower back, surgeries of the midsection
   66  to repair the abdomen, multiple bouts of sepsis and infection,
   67  reattachment of the urethra and testicles, severe concussion
   68  syndrome, and posttraumatic stress disorder, and
   69         WHEREAS, Mr. Companioni’s medical expenses totaled more
   70  than $1.2 million, and
   71         WHEREAS, Mr. Companioni, who was an executive chef at the
   72  time of the accident, has suffered a loss of earnings and his
   73  earning capacity has been devastated, and
   74         WHEREAS, although permanently disabled, Mr. Companioni has
   75  persevered and attempted to support himself by operating a hot
   76  dog stand at Tampa Bay Buccaneer games and other crowd events,
   77  and
   78         WHEREAS, at the time of the accident, Mr. Companioni was an
   79  active, physically fit man in the prime of his life and had
   80  served his country as a Third Class Naval Reservist in a special
   81  unit attached to a Marine Corps and Navy Seal assault landing
   82  craft unit, and
   83         WHEREAS, on March 26, 2004, a Hillsborough County jury
   84  found the City of Tampa, by and through its employee, Mr.
   85  Pierola, to be negligent and 90 percent at fault for the
   86  accident and resulting injuries to Mr. Companioni, and found Mr.
   87  Companioni to be 10 percent comparatively negligent, and
   88         WHEREAS, the jury determined Mr. Companioni’s damages to be
   89  in the amount of $17,928,800, and
   90         WHEREAS, final judgment was entered on April 5, 2004, in
   91  the amount of the jury verdict, plus interest at the statutory
   92  rate of 7 percent per annum, and
   93         WHEREAS, following multiple posttrial motions and appeals,
   94  which have denied Mr. Companioni justice for more than 10 years,
   95  the Florida Supreme Court and the Second District Court of
   96  Appeal upheld the verdict and final judgment, and
   97         WHEREAS, the City of Tampa has paid $100,000, which is the
   98  sovereign immunity limit applicable to this case, leaving a
   99  remaining balance of $17,828,800 for which Mr. Companioni seeks
  100  satisfaction, and
  101         WHEREAS, all legal remedies have been exhausted, NOW,
  102  THERFORE,
  104  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  106         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
  107  found and declared to be true.
  108         Section 2. The City of Tampa is authorized and directed to
  109  appropriate from funds of the city not otherwise appropriated
  110  and to draw a warrant in the amount of $17,828,800, payable to
  111  Ramiro Companioni, as compensation for injuries and damages
  112  sustained as a result of the negligence of an employee of the
  113  City of Tampa.
  114         Section 3. The total amount paid for attorney fees,
  115  lobbying fees, costs, and other similar expenses relating to
  116  this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded under
  117  this act.
  118         Section 4. The amount paid by the City of Tampa pursuant to
  119  s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and this award are intended to
  120  provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims
  121  arising out of the factual situation described in this act which
  122  resulted in the injuries and damages sustained by Mr.
  123  Companioni.
  124         Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.