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.
    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,
  131  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  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.