HB 603

A bill to be entitled
2An act for the relief of Yvonne Morton; providing an
3appropriation to compensate her for injuries and damages
4sustained as a result of the negligence of the Department
5of Health; providing a limitation on the payment of fees
6and costs; providing an effective date.
8     WHEREAS, on January 2, 2007, Yvonne Morton was driving her
9automobile on Pinellas Avenue South in Tarpon Springs, Pinellas
10County, when she was struck by William Herbert, a pharmacy
11inspector for the Division of Medical Quality Assurance in the
12Department of Health. Mr. Herbert was driving an automobile
13owned by the Department of Health in the course and scope of his
14employment, and
15     WHEREAS, Mr. Herbert failed to yield at a stop sign and
16pulled out in front of Ms. Morton's vehicle, causing a
17substantial collision. Mr. Herbert was issued a traffic citation
18for failure to yield at a stop sign and violating Ms. Morton's
19right of way, and
20     WHEREAS, Ms. Morton was transported by air to the Bayfront
21Medical Center in St. Petersburg and remained a patient at
22Bayfront until January 31, 2007. Ms. Morton, who was 85 years
23old at the time of the collision, was determined to have
24sustained multiple injuries, including multiple fractured ribs,
25a scalp hematoma, and neck injuries later diagnosed as central
26cord syndrome. During her hospital stay, her neurosurgeon, David
27M. McKalip, M.D., performed surgery on her neck. During the
28surgical procedure, described as a C5-C6 lateral mass
29instrumentation and fusion, metal hardware, including screws,
30rods, and a crosslink, were implanted, and
31     WHEREAS, upon discharge, Ms. Morton was transported by
32ambulance to Manor Care of Palm Harbor, a nursing facility in
33Palm Harbor, Florida. Ms. Morton resided at Manor Care until
34February 6, 2007, when she was transported by ambulance to Mease
35Countryside Hospital for dyspnea with the suspected cause being
36a pulmonary embolus due to lengthy bed rest. She remained at
37Mease until February 17, 2007, when she was discharged to a new
38nursing facility, Orchard Ridge Rehabilitation in New Port
39Richey, for continued rehabilitation of her injuries, and
40     WHEREAS, Ms. Morton resided at Orchard Ridge until August
419, 2007, when she was transported to La Casa Grande, an assisted
42living facility also located in New Port Richey, where she
43continues to reside. Her average monthly living expenses at the
44facility are currently $3,531.60, and
45     WHEREAS, prior to the accident, Ms. Morton was independent
46and self-sufficient, living on her own in her own home, driving
47her own car, and exercising regularly. Following the accident,
48she has been confined to hospitals, nursing homes, and, now, an
49assisted living facility. The injuries she sustained have caused
50her to depend on others for the performance of most of the
51activities of daily living, and have caused such difficulty and
52inability to ambulate that she now is confined to a wheelchair,
54     WHEREAS, Ms. Morton's total medical expenses incurred as a
55result of the accident, including hospitalizations, physician
56services, surgical services, diagnostic imaging studies, air and
57ambulance transportation, nursing home residency fees, and
58assisted living facility fees, through July 31, 2009, amount to
59approximately $570,000, and
60     WHEREAS, Ms. Morton's personal automobile insurer, State
61Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, has paid $10,000
62toward her medical bills in personal injury protection benefits
63and $100,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits.
64Humana, the American Association of Retired Persons, and
65Medicare have also paid toward her bills. These organizations
66retain subrogation interests on any recovery made by Ms. Morton,
68     WHEREAS, a lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Lucas,
69Green, and Magazine on behalf of Ms. Morton in the Circuit Court
70of Pinellas County, Case No. 07-9114-C-13, against the State of
71Florida, Department of Health. In that lawsuit, the department
72admitted liability and took the position that its employee,
73William Hebert, was solely at fault for the accident. The
74parties entered into a settlement under which the department
75will pay its statutory limit of liability of $100,000 pursuant
76to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the department agreed not to
77contest or oppose any claim bill on behalf of Ms. Morton as long
78as the claim bill did not seek compensation in excess of an
79additional $650,000, NOW, THEREFORE,
81Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
83     Section 1.  The facts stated in the preamble to this act
84are found and declared to be true.
85     Section 2.  The sum of $650,000 is appropriated from the
86General Revenue Fund to the Department of Health for the relief
87of Yvonne Morton for injuries and damages sustained.
88     Section 3.  The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw
89a warrant in favor of Yvonne Morton in the sum of $650,000 upon
90funds of the Department of Health in the State Treasury, and to
91pay the same out of such funds in the State Treasury.
92     Section 4.  The amount paid by the Department of Health
93pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount awarded
94under this act are intended to provide the sole compensation for
95all present and future claims arising out of the factual
96situation described in this act which resulted in the injuries
97and damages to Yvonne Morton. The total amount paid for
98attorney's fees, lobbying fees, costs, and other expenses
99relating to this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the total
100amount awarded under this act.
101     Section 5.  This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.

CODING: Words stricken are deletions; words underlined are additions.