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