Florida Senate - 2013 SB 16 By Senator Montford 3-00021-13 201316__ 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 Jennifer Wohlgemuth, whose 5 injuries were due to the negligence of an employee of 6 the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office; providing a 7 limitation on the payment of fees and costs; providing 8 an effective date. 9 10 WHEREAS, in the early morning of January 3, 2005, 21-year 11 old Jennifer Wohlgemuth was driving her vehicle southbound on 12 Regency Park Boulevard in Pasco County, observing the speed 13 limit, and driving appropriately, and 14 WHEREAS, as Jennifer approached the intersection at Ridge 15 Road, she slowed down as she entered the intersection on a green 16 light. As Jennifer’s vehicle proceeded through the intersection, 17 it was suddenly and violently struck by a vehicle from the Pasco 18 County Sheriff’s Office which was driven by Deputy Kenneth 19 Petrillo, and 20 WHEREAS, Deputy Petrillo was driving one of four law 21 enforcement vehicles engaged in a high-speed pursuit. However, 22 Deputy Petrillo’s vehicle was well behind the other vehicles, 23 which had already cleared the intersection. Deputy Petrillo had 24 not activated his siren or flashing lights and drove through a 25 red light as he traveled eastbound on Ridge Road at a speed of 26 more than 20 miles per hour faster than the posted speed limit, 27 striking the passenger side of Jennifer’s vehicle, and 28 WHEREAS, none of the numerous witnesses to the crash heard 29 Deputy Petrillo’s siren or saw flashing lights, and after the 30 crash Deputy Petrillo’s siren switch was in the “radio” mode, 31 which indicates that the siren was not activated at the time of 32 the crash, and 33 WHEREAS, an internal affairs investigation into the 34 accident found that Deputy Petrillo violated the policies of the 35 Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, and he was suspended for 30 days 36 without pay and subjected to other disciplinary measures, and 37 WHEREAS, Jennifer suffered profound brain injuries, 38 including a subdural hematoma of the right frontal lobe and 39 subarachnoid hemorrhage. Due to her brain swelling, part of 40 Jennifer’s skull was removed. Jennifer was in a coma for 3 weeks 41 and could not speak for several months thereafter, and 42 WHEREAS, Jennifer was unable to return home until August 43 2005. As a result of the accident, she currently suffers from 44 severe memory loss, partial loss of vision, lack of balance, 45 urinary problems, anxiety, depression, dysarthric speech, acne, 46 and weight fluctuations. Due to damage to her frontal lobe, 47 Jennifer’s behavior and impulse control are similar to those of 48 a 7-year-old child. She requires supervision 24 hours a day, 7 49 days a week. Because of her significant memory impairment and 50 lack of judgment, Jennifer is unable to drive, work at a job, or 51 live independently, and 52 WHEREAS, a 3-day bench trial was held in the Sixth Judicial 53 Circuit, and on March 12, 2009, the trial court rendered a 54 verdict in Jennifer’s favor, awarding total damages of 55 $9,141,267.32, and 56 WHEREAS, the court found that Deputy Petrillo was 95 57 percent responsible for Jennifer’s injuries and that Jennifer 58 was responsible for the remaining 5 percent due to her alleged 59 failure to wear a seat belt. On August 4, 2009, the trial court 60 entered its amended final judgment in the amount of 61 $8,724,754.40, and 62 WHEREAS, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office appealed the 63 amended final judgment to the Second District Court of Appeal. 64 Both sides filed appellate briefs and oral arguments were heard 65 on March 2, 2010. On March 10, 2010, the Second District Court 66 of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s final judgment, and 67 WHEREAS, according to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, the 68 Pasco County Sheriff’s Office paid the statutory limit of 69 $100,000, and $8,624,754.40 remains unpaid, NOW, THEREFORE, 70 71 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 72 73 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 74 found and declared to be true. 75 Section 2. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is authorized 76 and directed to appropriate from funds of the sheriff’s office 77 not otherwise appropriated and to draw a warrant, payable to 78 Jennifer Wohlgemuth, for the amount of $8,624,754.40 for 79 injuries and damages sustained due to the negligence of an 80 employee of the sheriff’s office. 81 Section 3. The amount paid by the Pasco County Sheriff’s 82 Office pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount 83 awarded under this act are intended to provide the sole 84 compensation for all present and future claims arising out of 85 the factual situation described in this act which resulted in 86 the injuries to Jennifer Wohlgemuth. The total amount paid for 87 attorney fees, lobbying fees, costs, and other similar expenses 88 relating to this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the amount 89 awarded under this act. 90 Section 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.