Florida Senate - 2017 SB 20 By Senator Galvano 21-00022-17 201720__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Ramiro Companioni by the City 3 of Tampa; providing for an appropriation to compensate 4 Mr. Companioni for injuries sustained as a result of 5 the negligence of an employee of the City of Tampa; 6 providing a limitation on the payment of compensation, 7 fees, and costs; providing an effective date. 8 9 WHEREAS, at about noon on November 22, 1996, 34-year-old 10 Ramiro Companioni was operating his motorcycle in the inside, 11 eastbound lane of East Hillsborough Avenue near its intersection 12 with North 50th Street, and 13 WHEREAS, a City of Tampa Water Department truck operated by 14 city employee Faustino Pierola, which was accompanied by two 15 other similar vehicles owned by the city and operated by city 16 employees, pulled into the outside, eastbound lane from the 17 south shoulder of Hillsborough Avenue and steered across three 18 lanes of traffic into the path of Mr. Companioni, and 19 WHEREAS, although Mr. Companioni attempted to avoid the 20 collision by laying down his motorcycle, he and his motorcycle 21 struck the rear of the city-owned truck, violently ejecting him 22 from the motorcycle onto the pavement, causing him massive and 23 catastrophic injuries, and 24 WHEREAS, an independent eyewitness interviewed at the scene 25 told traffic accident investigators that he witnessed the city 26 owned truck pull away from the shoulder and steer across the 27 lanes of traffic into the lane in which Mr. Companioni was 28 traveling, and 29 WHEREAS, the eyewitness estimated that Mr. Companioni had 30 been traveling at a speed of 40 miles per hour as he approached 31 the city-owned truck, which was well within the maximum speed 32 limit of 45 miles per hour, and 33 WHEREAS, the eyewitness stated that the driver of the city 34 owned truck, Mr. Pierola, was the cause of the accident, and 35 WHEREAS, additional witnesses testified that the three 36 truck caravan owned and operated by the city appeared to be a 37 “wagon train,” and that Mr. Companioni was “cut off” by the 38 trucks and had “nowhere to go,” and 39 WHEREAS, Mr. Pierola admitted that he failed to observe any 40 oncoming traffic despite an even roadway, clear visibility, and 41 the absence of obstructions, indicating that he was negligent by 42 failing to properly look for oncoming traffic, and 43 WHEREAS, despite an obvious conflict of interest, the City 44 of Tampa Police Department failed to call in an independent law 45 enforcement agency to conduct the official traffic accident 46 investigation and attributed fault to both Mr. Pierola and Mr. 47 Companioni, opining that, despite eyewitness testimony to the 48 contrary, Mr. Companioni may have been operating his vehicle in 49 excess of the speed limit, and 50 WHEREAS, city employees at the scene, including Mr. 51 Pierola, did not assert that Mr. Companioni was operating his 52 vehicle in excess of the maximum speed limit, and 53 WHEREAS, as a result of the collision, Mr. Companioni was 54 rendered unconscious and suffered massive catastrophic injuries 55 resulting in a coma; multiple internal lacerations of the 56 midsection organs resulting in the loss of the large intestine 57 and necessitating a colostomy and urethral catheter; removal of 58 the spleen; multiple fractures of his right hip and four spinal 59 vertebra; a severed right sciatic nerve, resulting in loss of 60 control of the right hip, leg, and foot; laceration and partial 61 severance of the urethra and testicles; and multiple lacerations 62 and abrasions from contact with the road surface causing 63 permanent scarring and disfigurement, and 64 WHEREAS, Mr. Companioni’s permanent injuries include 65 fusions of his hips and lower back, surgeries of the midsection 66 to repair the abdomen, multiple bouts of sepsis and infection, 67 reattachment of the urethra and testicles, severe concussion 68 syndrome, and posttraumatic stress disorder, and 69 WHEREAS, Mr. Companioni’s medical expenses totaled more 70 than $1.2 million, and 71 WHEREAS, Mr. Companioni, who was an executive chef at the 72 time of the accident, has suffered a loss of earnings and his 73 earning capacity has been devastated, and 74 WHEREAS, although permanently disabled, Mr. Companioni has 75 persevered and attempted to support himself by operating a hot 76 dog stand at Tampa Bay Buccaneer games and other crowd events, 77 and 78 WHEREAS, at the time of the accident, Mr. Companioni was an 79 active, physically fit man in the prime of his life and had 80 served his country as a Third Class Naval Reservist in a special 81 unit attached to a Marine Corps and Navy Seal assault landing 82 craft unit, and 83 WHEREAS, on March 26, 2004, a Hillsborough County jury 84 found the City of Tampa, by and through its employee, Mr. 85 Pierola, to be negligent and 90 percent at fault for the 86 accident and resulting injuries to Mr. Companioni, and found Mr. 87 Companioni to be 10 percent comparatively negligent, and 88 WHEREAS, the jury determined Mr. Companioni’s damages to be 89 in the amount of $17,928,800, and 90 WHEREAS, final judgment was entered on April 5, 2004, in 91 the amount of the jury verdict, plus interest at the statutory 92 rate of 7 percent per annum, and 93 WHEREAS, following multiple posttrial motions and appeals, 94 which have denied Mr. Companioni justice for more than 10 years, 95 the Florida Supreme Court and the Second District Court of 96 Appeal upheld the verdict and final judgment, and 97 WHEREAS, the City of Tampa has paid $100,000, which is the 98 sovereign immunity limit applicable to this case, leaving a 99 remaining balance of $17,828,800, plus interest at the statutory 100 rate of 7 percent per annum, for which Mr. Companioni seeks 101 satisfaction, and 102 WHEREAS, all legal remedies have been exhausted, NOW, 103 THEREFORE, 104 105 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 106 107 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 108 found and declared to be true. 109 Section 2. The City of Tampa is authorized and directed to 110 appropriate from funds not otherwise encumbered and to draw a 111 warrant in the sum of $17,828,800, plus interest at the 112 statutory rate of 7 percent per annum, payable to Ramiro 113 Companioni as compensation for injuries and damages sustained. 114 Section 3. The amount paid by the City of Tampa pursuant to 115 s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount awarded under this 116 act are intended to provide the sole compensation for all 117 present and future claims arising out of the factual situation 118 described in this act which resulted in injuries and damages to 119 Mr. Companioni. The total amount paid for attorney fees, 120 lobbying fees, costs, and similar expenses relating to this 121 claim may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded under this 122 act. 123 Section 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.