Florida Senate - 2018 (NP) SB 46 By Senator Galvano 21-00228A-18 201846__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Ramiro Companioni, Jr., by 3 the City of Tampa; providing for an appropriation to 4 compensate Mr. Companioni for injuries sustained as a 5 result of the negligence of an employee of the City of 6 Tampa; providing a limitation on the payment of 7 compensation and fees; providing an effective date. 8 9 WHEREAS, at about noon on November 22, 1996, 34-year-old 10 Ramiro Companioni, Jr., was operating his motorcycle in the 11 inside, eastbound lane of East Hillsborough Avenue near its 12 intersection 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, independent eyewitnesses interviewed at the scene 25 told traffic accident investigators that they witnessed the 26 city-owned truck pull away from the shoulder and steer across 27 the lanes of traffic into the lane in which Mr. Companioni was 28 traveling, and 29 WHEREAS, one 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, witnesses testified at trial that the three-truck 36 caravan owned and operated by the city appeared to be a “wagon 37 train,” and that Mr. Companioni was “cut off” by the trucks and 38 had “nowhere to go,” and 39 WHEREAS, Mr. Pierola admitted that he failed to observe any 40 traffic to the rear of his truck despite an even roadway, clear 41 visibility, and the absence of obstructions, proving that he was 42 negligent by failing to properly look for rearward traffic, and 43 WHEREAS, despite an obvious conflict of interest, the City 44 of Tampa Police Department failed to request an independent law 45 enforcement agency to conduct the official traffic accident 46 investigation, and the department attributed fault to both Mr. 47 Pierola and Mr. Companioni, ignoring the eyewitnesses’ testimony 48 that Mr. Companioni was not operating his vehicle in excess of 49 the speed limit, and 50 WHEREAS, city employees at the scene, including Mr. 51 Pierola, did not tell investigators that Mr. Companioni was 52 operating his 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 resulting in a coma; multiple internal lacerations of the 56 midsection organs resulting in the loss of the large intestine 57 and necessitating a colostomy and urethral catheter; removal of 58 the spleen; multiple fractures of his right hip and four spinal 59 vertebrae; 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 injuries include fusions of his 65 hips and lower back, surgeries on his midsection to repair the 66 abdomen, multiple bouts of sepsis and infection, reattachment of 67 the urethra and testicles, severe concussion syndrome, and 68 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, and had earned more than $40,000 in income 73 annually, and 74 WHEREAS, according to the unrefuted testimony of a 75 prominent Tampa restaurateur, Mr. Companioni was a rising star 76 in the local restaurant community and would have likely had his 77 annual income rise to more than $80,000 annually had he not been 78 injured, and 79 WHEREAS, as a result of the accident, Mr. Companioni has 80 suffered a loss of earnings and his earning capacity has been 81 devastated, and 82 WHEREAS, although permanently disabled, Mr. Companioni has 83 persevered and attempted to support himself by operating a hot 84 dog stand at Tampa Bay Buccaneers games and other crowd events, 85 and 86 WHEREAS, at the time of the accident, Mr. Companioni was an 87 active, physically fit man in the prime of his life and had 88 served his country as a Third Class Naval Reservist in a special 89 unit attached to a Marine Corps and Navy Seal assault landing 90 craft unit, and 91 WHEREAS, before the accident, Mr. Companioni actively 92 served his community as a volunteer and was a Mason, which 93 included volunteering and donating his services for various 94 charity events at the Shriners Hospital for Children in his role 95 as a Shriner, volunteering at career days and counseling 96 students interested in becoming chefs at four high schools in 97 Tampa, volunteering at community hospitals as part of the Navy’s 98 “Operation White Hat” program, and has continued volunteering at 99 events at Christ the King Catholic Church through organizing the 100 church’s food service for various charitable events, and 101 WHEREAS, Mr. Companioni has suffered catastrophic and life 102 changing injuries, severe bodily injury, pain and suffering, 103 mental anguish, disfigurement, incontinence which requires the 104 use of a colostomy bag, and the loss of enjoyment of life, and 105 WHEREAS, on March 26, 2004, a Hillsborough County jury 106 found the City of Tampa, by and through its employee, Mr. 107 Pierola, to be negligent and 90 percent at fault for the 108 accident and resulting injuries to Mr. Companioni, and found Mr. 109 Companioni to be 10 percent comparatively negligent, and 110 WHEREAS, the jury determined Mr. Companioni’s damages to be 111 in the amount of $17,928,800, and 112 WHEREAS, final judgment was entered on April 5, 2004, in 113 the amount of the jury verdict, plus interest at the statutory 114 rate of 7 percent per annum, and 115 WHEREAS, following multiple posttrial motions and appeals, 116 which have denied Mr. Companioni justice for more than 10 years, 117 the Florida Supreme Court and the Second District Court of 118 Appeal upheld the verdict and final judgment, and 119 WHEREAS, the City of Tampa has paid $100,000, which is the 120 sovereign immunity limit applicable to this case, leaving a 121 remaining balance of $17,828,800, plus interest at the statutory 122 rate of 7 percent per annum, for which Mr. Companioni seeks 123 satisfaction, and 124 WHEREAS, Mr. Companioni has waited more than 21 years for 125 any compensation in excess of the $100,000 sovereign immunity 126 cap and has lived a tragic life because of his disabilities and 127 life-changing permanent injuries, which have been made more 128 difficult without receiving adequate compensation, NOW, 129 THEREFORE, 130 131 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 132 133 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 134 found and declared to be true. 135 Section 2. The City of Tampa is authorized and directed to 136 appropriate from funds not otherwise encumbered and to draw a 137 warrant in the sum of $17,828,800, plus interest at the 138 statutory rate of 7 percent per annum, payable to Ramiro 139 Companioni, Jr., as compensation for injuries and damages 140 sustained. 141 Section 3. The amount paid by the City of Tampa pursuant to 142 s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount awarded under this 143 act are intended to provide the sole compensation for all 144 present and future claims arising out of the factual situation 145 described in this act which resulted in injuries and damages to 146 Mr. Companioni. The total amount paid for attorney fees relating 147 to this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded 148 under this act. 149 Section 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.