Florida Senate - 2013 SB 18 By Senator Montford 3-00022-13 201318__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Yvonne Morton; providing an 3 appropriation to compensate her for injuries and 4 damages sustained as a result of the negligence of an 5 employee of the Department of Health; providing a 6 limitation on the payment of fees and costs; providing 7 an effective date. 8 9 WHEREAS, on January 2, 2007, Yvonne Morton was driving her 10 automobile on Pinellas Avenue South in Tarpon Springs, Pinellas 11 County, when she was struck by William Herbert, a pharmacy 12 inspector for the Division of Medical Quality Assurance in the 13 Department of Health. Mr. Herbert was driving an automobile 14 owned by the Department of Health in the course and scope of his 15 employment, and 16 WHEREAS, Mr. Herbert failed to yield at a stop sign and 17 pulled out in front of Ms. Morton’s vehicle, causing a 18 substantial collision. Mr. Herbert was issued a traffic citation 19 for failure to yield at a stop sign and violating Ms. Morton’s 20 right of way, and 21 WHEREAS, Ms. Morton was transported by air to the Bayfront 22 Medical Center in St. Petersburg and remained a patient at 23 Bayfront until January 31, 2007. Ms. Morton, who was 85 years 24 old at the time of the collision, was determined to have 25 sustained multiple injuries, including multiple fractured ribs, 26 a scalp hematoma, and neck injuries later diagnosed as central 27 cord syndrome. During her hospital stay, her neurosurgeon, David 28 M. McKalip, M.D., performed surgery on her neck. During the 29 surgical procedure, described as a C5-C6 lateral mass 30 instrumentation and fusion, metal hardware, including screws, 31 rods, and a crosslink, were implanted, and 32 WHEREAS, upon discharge, Ms. Morton was transported by 33 ambulance to Manor Care of Palm Harbor, a nursing facility in 34 Palm Harbor. Ms. Morton resided at Manor Care until February 6, 35 2007, when she was transported by ambulance to Mease Countryside 36 Hospital for dyspnea with the suspected cause being a pulmonary 37 embolus due to lengthy bed rest. She remained at Mease until 38 February 17, 2007, when she was discharged to a new nursing 39 facility, Orchard Ridge Rehabilitation in New Port Richey, for 40 continued rehabilitation of her injuries, and 41 WHEREAS, Ms. Morton resided at Orchard Ridge until August 42 9, 2007, when she was transported to La Casa Grande, an assisted 43 living facility also located in New Port Richey, where she 44 continues to reside. Her average monthly living expenses at the 45 facility are currently $3,531.60, and 46 WHEREAS, before the accident, Ms. Morton was independent 47 and self-sufficient, living on her own in her own home, driving 48 her own car, and exercising regularly. Since the accident, she 49 has been confined to hospitals, nursing homes, and, now, an 50 assisted living facility. The injuries she sustained have caused 51 her to depend on others for the performance of most of the 52 activities of daily living, and have caused such difficulty and 53 inability to ambulate that she now is confined to a wheelchair, 54 and 55 WHEREAS, Ms. Morton’s total medical expenses incurred as a 56 result of the accident, including hospitalizations, physician 57 services, surgical services, diagnostic imaging studies, air and 58 ambulance transportation, nursing home residency fees, and 59 assisted living facility fees, through July 31, 2009, amount to 60 approximately $570,000, and 61 WHEREAS, Ms. Morton’s personal automobile insurer, State 62 Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, has paid $10,000 63 toward her medical bills in personal injury protection benefits 64 and $100,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits. 65 Humana, the American Association of Retired Persons, and 66 Medicare have also paid portions of her bills and these 67 organizations retain subrogation interests on any recovery made 68 by Ms. Morton, and 69 WHEREAS, a lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Lucas, 70 Green, and Magazine on behalf of Ms. Morton in the Circuit Court 71 of Pinellas County, Case No. 07-9114-C-13, against the State of 72 Florida, Department of Health. In that lawsuit, the department 73 admitted liability and took the position that its employee, 74 William Hebert, was solely at fault for the accident. The 75 parties entered into a settlement under which the department 76 will pay its statutory limit of liability of $100,000 pursuant 77 to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and agreed not to contest or 78 oppose any claim bill on behalf of Ms. Morton if the claim bill 79 did not seek compensation in excess of an additional $650,000, 80 NOW, THEREFORE, 81 82 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 83 84 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 85 found and declared to be true. 86 Section 2. The sum of $650,000 is appropriated from the 87 General Revenue Fund to the Department of Health for the relief 88 of Yvonne Morton for injuries and damages sustained as a result 89 of the negligence of an employee of the Department of Health. 90 Section 3. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw 91 a warrant in favor of Yvonne Morton in the sum of $650,000 upon 92 funds of the Department of Health in the State Treasury, and to 93 pay that amount out of such funds. 94 Section 4. The amount paid by the Department of Health 95 pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount awarded 96 under this act are intended to provide the sole compensation for 97 all present and future claims arising out of the factual 98 situation described in this act which resulted in the injuries 99 and damages to Yvonne Morton. The total amount paid for attorney 100 fees, lobbying fees, and related costs may not exceed 15 percent 101 of the amount awarded under this act, absent a waiver of this 102 fee limitation executed by the claimant, and in such event, the 103 fee may not exceed 25 percent of the total amount awarded under 104 this act. 105 Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.