Florida Senate - 2022                              (NP)    SB 60
       By Senator Cruz
       18-00176-22                                             202260__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act for the relief of the Estate of Molly Parker;
    3         providing an appropriation to compensate the Estate of
    4         Molly Parker for Ms. Parker’s death, sustained as
    5         result of the negligence of the Department of
    6         Transportation; providing a limitation on compensation
    7         and the payment of attorney fees; providing an
    8         effective date.
   10         WHEREAS, on December 12, 2019, shortly after 9 a.m., a dump
   11  truck driven by Jesmond Russ and registered to the Florida
   12  Department of Transportation (FDOT), fully loaded with dirt and
   13  weighing over 40,000 pounds, collided with a sport utility
   14  vehicle (SUV) driven by Molly Morrison Parker, a 39-year-old
   15  wife and mother who was a resident of Santa Rosa Beach, and
   16         WHEREAS, the crash occurred in Marianna, Jackson County, at
   17  the intersection of County Road 167 and State Road 2, both paved
   18  two-lane highways with posted stop signs, as well as marked stop
   19  bars on both the north and south portions of State Road 2,
   20  regulating the flow of traffic on County Road 167, and
   21         WHEREAS, Mr. Russ, traveling on State Road 2, claims to
   22  have stopped at the intersection, looked both ways, and, just
   23  before clearing the intersection, while crossing the eastbound
   24  travel lane of State Road 2, noted a silver SUV out of the
   25  corner of his eye, and then the crash occurred, and
   26         WHEREAS, the Florida Highway Patrol charged Mr. Russ, at
   27  the time a 33-year-old employee of the FDOT, with failing to
   28  yield the right-of-way in violation of s. 316.123(2)(a), Florida
   29  Statutes, and
   30         WHEREAS, according to the Florida Highway Patrol crash
   31  investigation report, damage to Ms. Parker’s vehicle required
   32  first responders to use the Jaws of Life to gain access to and
   33  extricate Ms. Parker from the vehicle, and
   34         WHEREAS, Ms. Parker suffered life-threatening injuries in
   35  the crash and was transported by AIRHeart 2 medical helicopter
   36  services to Southeast Health in Dothan, Alabama, where she was
   37  admitted for treatment of her injuries and was pronounced
   38  deceased on December 22, 2019, and
   39         WHEREAS, Ms. Parker’s June 12, 2020, Alabama Certificate of
   40  Death states the cause of death as “motor vehicle accident
   41  status post left decompressive hemicraniectomy, traumatic brain
   42  injury with intraparenchymal hemorrhage and intraventricular
   43  hemorrhage, acute encephalopathy with diffuse axonal injury, and
   44  acute respiratory failure post terminal extubation,” and
   45         WHEREAS, Mr. Russ entered the intersection when unsafe and
   46  into the path of Ms. Parker’s SUV, and his violation of s.
   47  316.123(2)(a), Florida Statutes, was the sole cause of this
   48  crash, all property damage, and the death of Ms. Parker, and
   49         WHEREAS, Ms. Parker was wearing her seat belt and driving
   50  the speed limit in the proper lane, neither driver was impaired,
   51  no environmental conditions contributed to the crash, and there
   52  were no visual obstructions that would have blocked Mr. Russ’
   53  view of vehicles traveling toward the intersection, had he
   54  stopped and looked several times as he claims he did, and
   55         WHEREAS, Jackson County Circuit Judge Wade Mercer, who
   56  presided over a March 11, 2021, hearing in this case, denied Mr.
   57  Russ’ motion for acquittal, ruling that “there is no doubt in my
   58  mind that Mr. Russ is guilty of running a stop sign as defined
   59  by s. 316.123, Florida Statutes,” and
   60         WHEREAS, in making this ruling, Judge Mercer admonished the
   61  defendant, stating, “It is concerning that even today, months
   62  later, he’s still denying the existence of the car that hit his
   63  vehicle. If you believe Mr. Russ’s testimony and if he was a
   64  hundred percent accurate, then this car got dropped out of the
   65  sky from somewhere because it was never there. And as far as you
   66  can see up the road, that is impossible. This car could have
   67  been going, based on the roads I’ve seen in these photographs,
   68  200 miles an hour and still he would have crossed that
   69  intersection and got out of the way had he not entered the
   70  intersection in a dangerous manner,” and
   71         WHEREAS, against the clear weight of the evidence, the FDOT
   72  claims that Ms. Parker contributed to her death because her cell
   73  phone was found on the floorboard of her vehicle after the
   74  crash, despite the fact that her cell phone records plainly
   75  demonstrate that she was not on her phone when the crash
   76  occurred and that her last call was a one-minute exchange that
   77  occurred a half hour before the crash, and
   78         WHEREAS, the Estate of Molly Parker, her surviving spouse,
   79  and her surviving minor child seek to recover the excess
   80  judgment for a verdict expected to be rendered during the 2022
   81  Legislative Session in excess of the limitations on liability
   82  set forth in s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and
   83         WHEREAS, the unpaid amount of the final judgment is
   84  $__________ million, NOW, THEREFORE,
   86  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   88         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
   89  found and declared to be true.
   90         Section 2. The sum of [$ amount] is appropriated from the
   91  General Revenue Fund to the Department of Transportation for the
   92  relief of the Estate of Molly Parker for her death.
   93         Section 3. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw
   94  a warrant in favor of the Estate of Molly Parker in the sum of
   95  [$ amount] upon funds of the Department of Transportation in the
   96  State Treasury and to pay the same out of such funds in the
   97  State Treasury.
   98         Section 4. The amount paid by the Division of Risk
   99  Management of the Department of Financial Services pursuant to
  100  s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount awarded under this
  101  act are intended to provide the sole compensation for all
  102  present and future claims arising out of the factual situation
  103  described in this act which resulted in the death of Molly
  104  Morrison Parker. The total amount paid for attorney fees
  105  relating to this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the total
  106  amount awarded under this act.
  107         Section 5. This act shall take effect July 1, 2022.