Florida Senate - 2012                               (NP)    SB 4
       By Senator Benacquisto
       27-00005A-12                                             20124__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act for the relief of Eric Brody by the Broward
    3         County Sheriff’s Office; providing for an
    4         appropriation to compensate Eric Brody for injuries
    5         sustained as a result of the negligence of the Broward
    6         County Sheriff’s Office; providing a limitation on the
    7         payment of fees and costs related to the claim against
    8         the Broward County Sheriff’s Office; providing
    9         legislative intent regarding lien interests held by
   10         the state; requiring that the guardianship pay a
   11         portion of such liens before distributing funds to the
   12         claimant; providing an effective date.
   14         WHEREAS, on the evening of March 3, 1998, 18-year-old Eric
   15  Brody, a college-bound high school senior, was returning home
   16  from his part-time job at the Sawgrass Mills Sports Authority.
   17  Eric was driving his 1982 AMC Concord eastbound on Oakland Park
   18  Boulevard in Sunrise, Florida, and
   19         WHEREAS, that same evening, Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy
   20  Christopher Thieman, who had been visiting his girlfriend and
   21  was running late for duty, was driving his Broward County
   22  Sheriff’s Office cruiser westbound on Oakland Park Boulevard. At
   23  the time he left his girlfriend’s house, Deputy Thieman had less
   24  than 15 minutes to travel 11 miles to make roll call on time,
   25  which was mandatory pursuant to sheriff’s office policy and
   26  procedure, and
   27         WHEREAS, at approximately 10:36 p.m., Eric Brody began to
   28  make a left-hand turn into his neighborhood at the intersection
   29  of N.W. 117th Avenue and Oakland Park Boulevard. Deputy Thieman,
   30  who was driving in excess of the 45-mile-per-hour posted speed
   31  limit and traveling in the opposite direction, was not within
   32  the intersection and was more than 430 feet away from Eric
   33  Brody’s car when Eric Brody began the turn. Eric Brody’s car
   34  cleared two of the three westbound lanes on Oakland Park
   35  Boulevard, and
   36         WHEREAS, Deputy Thieman, who was traveling in the inside
   37  westbound lane closest to the median, suddenly and inexplicably
   38  steered his vehicle to the right, across the center lane and
   39  into the outside lane, where the front end of his car struck the
   40  passenger side of Eric’s car with great force, just behind the
   41  right front wheel and near the passenger door, and
   42         WHEREAS, Deputy Thieman testified at trial that although he
   43  knew that the posted speed limit was 45 miles per hour, he
   44  refused to provide an estimate as to how fast he was traveling
   45  before the crash, and
   46         WHEREAS, despite the appearance of a conflict of interest,
   47  the Broward County Sheriff’s Office chose to conduct the
   48  official crash investigation instead of deferring to the City of
   49  Sunrise Police Department, which also had jurisdiction, or the
   50  Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), which often investigates motor
   51  vehicle collisions involving non-FHP law enforcement officers so
   52  as to avoid any possible conflict of interest, and
   53         WHEREAS, in the course of the investigation, the Broward
   54  County Sheriff’s Office lost key evidence from the crashed
   55  vehicles and did not report any witnesses even though the first
   56  responders to the crash scene were police officers from the City
   57  of Sunrise, and
   58         WHEREAS, the Broward County detective who led the crash
   59  investigation entered inaccurate data into a computerized
   60  accident reconstruction program which skewed the speed that
   61  Deputy Thieman was driving, but, nevertheless, determined that
   62  he was still traveling well over the speed limit, and
   63         WHEREAS, accident reconstruction experts called by both
   64  parties testified that Deputy Thieman was driving at least 60 to
   65  more than 70 miles per hour when his vehicle slammed into the
   66  passenger side of Eric Brody’s car, and
   67         WHEREAS, Eric Brody was found unconscious 6 minutes later
   68  by paramedics, his head and upper torso leaning upright and
   69  toward the passenger-side door. Although he was out of his
   70  shoulder harness and seat belt by the time paramedics arrived,
   71  the Brody’s attorney proved that Eric was wearing his seat belt
   72  and that the 16-year-old seat belt buckle failed during the
   73  crash. Photographs taken at the scene by the sheriff’s office
   74  investigators showed the belt to be fully spooled out because
   75  the retractor was jammed, with the belt dangling outside the
   76  vehicle from the driver-side door, providing proof that Eric
   77  Brody was wearing his seat belt and shoulder harness during the
   78  crash, and
   79         WHEREAS, accident reconstruction and human factor experts
   80  called by both the plaintiff and the defendant agreed that if
   81  Deputy Thieman been driving at the speed limit, Eric Brody would
   82  have easily completed his turn, and
   83         WHEREAS, the experts also agreed that if Deputy Thieman
   84  simply remained within his lane of travel, regardless of his
   85  speed, there would not have been a collision, and
   86         WHEREAS, in order to investigate the seat-belt defense,
   87  experts for Eric Brody recreated the accident using an exact
   88  car-to-car crash test that was conducted by a nationally
   89  recognized crash test facility. The crash test involved vehicles
   90  identical to the Brody and Thieman vehicles, a fully
   91  instrumented hybrid III dummy, and high-speed action cameras,
   92  and
   93         WHEREAS, the crash test proved that Eric Brody was wearing
   94  his restraint system during the crash because the seat-belted
   95  test dummy struck its head on the passenger door within inches
   96  of where Eric Brody’s head actually struck the passenger door,
   97  and
   98         WHEREAS, when Eric Brody’s head struck the passenger door
   99  of his vehicle, the door crushed inward from the force of the
  100  impact with the police cruiser while at the same time his upper
  101  torso was moving toward the point of impact and the passenger
  102  door. The impact resulted in skull fractures and massive brain
  103  sheering, bleeding, bruising, and swelling, and
  104         WHEREAS, Eric Brody was airlifted by helicopter to Broward
  105  General Hospital where he was placed on a ventilator and
  106  underwent an emergency craniotomy and neurosurgery. He began to
  107  recover from a deep coma more than 7 months after his injury and
  108  underwent extensive rehabilitation, having to relearn how to
  109  walk, talk, feed himself, and perform other basic functions, and
  110         WHEREAS, Eric Brody, who is now 30 years old, has been left
  111  profoundly brain-injured, lives with his parents, and is mostly
  112  isolated from his former friends and other young people his age.
  113  His speech is barely intelligible and he has significant
  114  cognitive dysfunction, judgment impairment, memory loss, and
  115  neuro-visual disabilities. Eric Brody also has impaired fine and
  116  gross motor skills and very poor balance. Although Eric is able
  117  to use a walker for short distances, he mostly uses a wheelchair
  118  to get around. The entire left side of his body is partially
  119  paralyzed and spastic, and he needs help with many of his daily
  120  functions. Eric Brody is permanently and totally disabled;
  121  however, he has a normal life expectancy, and
  122         WHEREAS, the cost of Eric Brody’s life care plan is nearly
  123  $10 million, and he has been left totally dependent on public
  124  health programs and taxpayer assistance since 1998, and
  125         WHEREAS, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office was insured
  126  for this claim through Ranger Insurance Company and paid more
  127  than $400,000 for liability coverage that has a policy limit of
  128  $3 million, and
  129         WHEREAS, Ranger Insurance Company ignored seven demand
  130  letters and other attempts by the Brodys to settle the case for
  131  the policy limit, and instead chose to wait for more than 7
  132  years following the date of the accident until the day the trial
  133  judge specially set the case for trial before offering to pay
  134  the policy limit. By that time nearly $750,000 had been spent
  135  preparing the case for trial, and Eric Brody had past due bills
  136  and liens of nearly $1.5 million for health and rehabilitative
  137  care services. Because so much money had been spent preparing
  138  the case for trial, the exorbitant costs of Eric Brody’s medical
  139  bills and liens, and the costs of future care continued to
  140  escalate, settlement for the policy limit was no longer
  141  feasible, and
  142         WHEREAS, on December 1, 2005, after a 2-month trial, a
  143  Broward County jury consisting of three men and three women
  144  found that that Deputy Thieman and the Broward County Sheriff’s
  145  Office were 100 percent negligent, and Eric Brody was not
  146  comparatively negligent, and
  147         WHEREAS, the jury found Eric Brody’s damages to be
  148  $30,609,298, including a determination that his past and future
  149  care and other economic damages were $11,326,216, and
  150         WHEREAS, final judgment was entered for $30,609,298, and
  151  the court entered a cost judgment for $270,372.30, and
  152         WHEREAS, the court denied the Broward County Sheriff’s
  153  Office posttrial motions for judgment notwithstanding the
  154  verdict, new trial, or remittitur, and
  155         WHEREAS, the insurer of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office
  156  retained appellate counsel and elected to appeal the final
  157  judgment but not the cost judgment, and
  158         WHEREAS, the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the
  159  verdict in the fall of 2007, and
  160         WHEREAS, the insurer of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office
  161  subsequently petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to seek
  162  another appeal, but the petition was denied in April of 2008,
  163  and
  164         WHEREAS, all legal remedies for all parties involved have
  165  been exhausted and this case is ripe for a claim bill, and
  166         WHEREAS, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office has paid
  167  $200,000 pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount
  168  of $12 million is sought through the submission of a claim bill
  169  to the Legislature, NOW, THEREFORE,
  171  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  173         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
  174  found and declared to be true.
  175         Section 2. The Sheriff of Broward County is authorized and
  176  directed to appropriate from funds of the Broward County
  177  Sheriff’s Office not otherwise appropriated and to draw a
  178  warrant payable to the Guardianship of Eric Brody for one-half
  179  of all amounts that remain unpaid in accordance with the final
  180  judgment, plus the cost judgment, in the sum of $15,575,021.30
  181  as compensation for injuries and damages sustained as a result
  182  of the negligence of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
  183         Section 3. The amount to be paid by the Broward County
  184  Sheriff’s Office pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and
  185  the amount awarded under this act are intended to provide the
  186  sole compensation for all claims arising out of the facts
  187  described in this act which resulted in the injuries to Eric
  188  Brody. The total amount of attorney’s fees, lobbying fees,
  189  costs, and other similar expenses may not exceed 25 percent of
  190  the total amount awarded under section 2 of this act.
  191         Section 4. It is the intent of the Legislature that one
  192  half of the lien interests held by the state resulting from the
  193  treatment and care of Eric Brody for the events described in the
  194  preamble of this act are not waived and extinguished, and the
  195  claimant’s guardianship shall reimburse the state for one-half
  196  of the expenses of Medicaid, Medicare, or the Agency for Health
  197  Care Administration pursuant to s. 409.910, Florida Statutes.
  198  The claimant’s guardianship shall pay the amount due pursuant to
  199  this act prior to distributing any funds to the claimant.
  200         Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.