Florida Senate - 2017 (NP) CS for SB 36 By the Committee on Judiciary; and Senator Montford 590-01954-17 201736c1 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Jennifer Wohlgemuth by the 3 Pasco County Sheriff’s Office; providing for an 4 appropriation to compensate her for injuries and 5 damages sustained as a result of the negligence of an 6 employee of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office; 7 providing a limitation on the payment of attorney 8 fees; providing an effective date. 9 10 WHEREAS, in the early morning of January 3, 2005, 21-year 11 old Jennifer Wohlgemuth was lawfully and properly operating her 12 vehicle and traveling southbound on Regency Park Boulevard, and 13 WHEREAS, at the same time, Deputy Kenneth Petrillo, an 14 officer of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, was driving one of 15 four law enforcement vehicles engaged in a high-speed pursuit, 16 and 17 WHEREAS, Deputy Petrillo’s vehicle was traveling eastbound 18 on Ridge Road, well behind the other law enforcement vehicles, 19 which had already cleared the intersection of Ridge Road and 20 Regency Park Boulevard in Pasco County, and 21 WHEREAS, Deputy Petrillo did not activate his vehicle’s 22 siren or flashing lights and sped through the intersection on a 23 red light at a speed of at least 20 miles per hour over the 24 posted speed limit, and 25 WHEREAS, Deputy Petrillo’s vehicle violently struck the 26 passenger side of Jennifer Wohlgemuth’s vehicle as she entered 27 the intersection on a green light while observing the speed 28 limit, and 29 WHEREAS, none of the numerous witnesses to the crash heard 30 Deputy Petrillo’s siren or saw flashing lights, and 31 WHEREAS, after the crash, Deputy Petrillo’s siren switch 32 was found to be in the radio mode, which indicates that the 33 siren was not activated at the time of the crash, and 34 WHEREAS, an internal affairs investigation of the accident 35 found that Deputy Petrillo violated the policies of the Pasco 36 County Sheriff’s Office, and he was suspended for 30 days 37 without pay and subjected to other disciplinary measures, and 38 WHEREAS, as a result of the accident, Jennifer Wohlgemuth 39 was in a coma for 3 weeks, was unable to speak for several 40 months after emerging from the coma, and did not return home 41 until August 2005, and 42 WHEREAS, Jennifer Wohlgemuth suffered profound brain 43 injuries, including a subdural hematoma of the right frontal 44 lobe and subarachnoid hemorrhage that resulted in the removal of 45 a portion of her skull, and 46 WHEREAS, due to the damage to her frontal lobe, Jennifer 47 Wohlgemuth’s behavior and impulse control are similar to those 48 of a 10-year-old child and require that she be supervised 24 49 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 50 WHEREAS, Jennifer Wohlgemuth currently suffers from severe 51 memory loss, partial loss of vision, lack of balance, urinary 52 problems, anxiety, depression, dysarthric speech, acne, and 53 weight fluctuations, and 54 WHEREAS, as a result of her significant memory impairment 55 and lack of judgment, Jennifer Wohlgemuth is unable to drive, 56 work at a job, or live independently and is under the 57 guardianship of Traci Wohlgemuth, and 58 WHEREAS, a 3-day bench trial was held in the Sixth Judicial 59 Circuit in the case of Traci Wohlgemuth, as guardian of Jennifer 60 K. Wohlgemuth, an incompetent, v. Robert White, as Sheriff of 61 Pasco County, Florida, which was assigned case number 51-2007 62 CA-000859, and on March 12, 2009, the trial court rendered a 63 verdict in Jennifer Wohlgemuth’s favor, awarding her total 64 damages of $9,141,267.32, and 65 WHEREAS, the trial court found that Deputy Petrillo was 95 66 percent responsible for Jennifer Wohlgemuth’s injuries and that 67 Ms. Wohlgemuth was responsible for the remaining 5 percent due 68 to her alleged failure to wear a seat belt, and 69 WHEREAS, on August 4, 2009, the trial court entered its 70 amended final judgment in the amount of $8,724,754.40, and 71 WHEREAS, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office appealed the 72 amended final judgment to the Second District Court of Appeal, 73 and the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s final 74 judgment on March 10, 2010, and 75 WHEREAS, in accordance with s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, 76 the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office paid the statutory limit of 77 $100,000, and the remaining amount of $8,624,754.40 remains 78 unpaid, and 79 WHEREAS, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and Jennifer 80 Wohlgemuth have since entered into a settlement agreement 81 regarding the unpaid amount, with the sheriff’s office promising 82 to make annual payments to Ms. Wohlgemuth and agreeing not to 83 oppose this claim bill, NOW, THEREFORE, 84 85 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 86 87 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 88 found and declared to be true. 89 Section 2. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is authorized 90 and directed to appropriate from funds of the sheriff’s office 91 and to pay Jennifer Wohlgemuth the settlement amount of $2.6 92 million as compensation for injuries and damages sustained due 93 to the negligence of an employee of the sheriff’s office. 94 Payment shall be made in the amount of $325,000 per year for 8 95 consecutive years. The first payment must be made no later than 96 October 31, 2017. Payments must be made by October 31 each 97 subsequent year until paid in full. However, if Jennifer 98 Wohlgemuth dies before October 31, 2024, payments shall cease 99 with her death and the award under this act shall be deemed paid 100 in full. 101 Section 3. The amount paid by the Pasco County Sheriff’s 102 Office under s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount awarded 103 under this act are intended to provide the sole compensation for 104 all present and future claims arising out of the factual 105 situation described in this act which resulted in the injuries 106 and damages to Jennifer Wohlgemuth. The total amount paid for 107 attorney fees relating to this claim may not exceed 25 percent 108 of the amount awarded under this act. 109 Section 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.