Florida Senate - 2022                              (NP)    SB 68
       By Senator Polsky
       29-00197-22                                             202268__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act for the relief of Julia Perez by the St. Johns
    3         County Sheriff’s Office; providing for compensation to
    4         Julia Perez for personal injuries and damages she
    5         suffered as a result of the negligence of an employee
    6         of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office; providing
    7         legislative intent for the waiver of certain liens;
    8         providing a limitation on compensation and the payment
    9         of attorney fees; providing an effective date.
   11         WHEREAS, on April 7, 2019, Julia Perez, age 51, and Tom
   12  Eiland, age 59, were both helmeted and lawfully operating
   13  separate motorcycles within the posted speed limit traveling
   14  eastbound in the correct travel lane on State Road 16 in
   15  unincorporated St. Johns County, and
   16         WHEREAS, at the same time, Deputy Brandon Hetzler, age 28,
   17  a newly sworn employee of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office
   18  (SJSO), acting in the course and scope of his employment, was
   19  operating a marked SJSO patrol vehicle and traveling westbound
   20  in the left turn lane on State Road 16 at the intersection of
   21  Harvest Lane, and
   22         WHEREAS, at approximately 5:09 p.m., the sky was clear, the
   23  road was dry, and it was daylight when Deputy Hetzler suddenly
   24  entered the intersection of State Road 16 and Harvest Lane and
   25  attempted a left turn directly in front of both motorcycles, and
   26         WHEREAS, the right front side of Deputy Hetzler’s vehicle
   27  collided with the front of Ms. Perez’s motorcycle, causing her
   28  to be ejected from her motorcycle, after which she made contact
   29  with the hood of the patrol car and was propelled over the roof,
   30  striking the trunk before landing on the pavement of State Road
   31  16, and
   32         WHEREAS, the right front side of Deputy Hetzler’s vehicle
   33  collided with the left side of Mr. Eiland’s motorcycle, ejecting
   34  Mr. Eiland from his motorcycle and onto the pavement, and
   35         WHEREAS, traffic crash investigators for the Florida
   36  Highway Patrol conducted an extensive investigation into the
   37  accident, which included preparation for a traffic homicide
   38  reconstruction due to Ms. Perez’s grave condition, and
   39         WHEREAS, witnesses on the scene told investigators that at
   40  the time of the crash the eastbound traffic had a steady green
   41  signal and that Ms. Perez and Mr. Eiland had the right of way,
   42  and
   43         WHEREAS, the investigation revealed that Deputy Hetzler had
   44  just overheard a service call and was responding to it; however,
   45  he did not activate his siren or emergency lights, and
   46         WHEREAS, the investigation determined that the actions of
   47  Ms. Perez and Mr. Eiland were not contributing factors in the
   48  collisions, and
   49         WHEREAS, the Florida Highway Patrol investigation found
   50  Deputy Hetzler to be at fault in the accident and issued him a
   51  traffic citation for failure to yield to oncoming traffic in
   52  violation of s. 316.122, Florida Statutes, and
   53         WHEREAS, SJSO Policy 61.16 states, “It shall be the
   54  responsibility of each employee to operate agency vehicles
   55  efficiently, maintain the vehicle, and drive the vehicle in
   56  observance of all rules of the road in order to reduce the
   57  likelihood of traffic crashes or injury,” and
   58         WHEREAS, SJSO Policy 61.16 also states, “All crashes and
   59  incidents involving agency vehicle damage shall be reviewed by
   60  the Traffic Crash Review Board within thirty days of the crash,”
   61  and
   62         WHEREAS, the SJSO Traffic Crash Review Board found Deputy
   63  Hetzler to be at fault for causing the crash and injuries, and
   64         WHEREAS, Deputy Hetzler’s negligence was the sole cause of
   65  the collision, and
   66         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffered multiple open and comminuted
   67  fractures of the pelvis, arms, and legs, as well as organ
   68  lacerations and punctures, including a punctured left lung,
   69  resulting in cardiopulmonary arrest due to loss of blood, and
   70         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez was found unresponsive at the scene of
   71  the accident and had to be resuscitated on the street by first
   72  responders before St. Johns County Fire Rescue arrived to assume
   73  rescue efforts, and
   74         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez was intubated in the field and rushed to
   75  the Trauma Center at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, arriving
   76  comatose and undergoing a series of blood transfusions, and
   77         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez spent 3 months on a ventilator and
   78  feeding tube, battled pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis,
   79  and episodes of pneumonia, suffered at least one myocardial
   80  infarction, and endured multiple systemic infections, and
   81         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez was unconscious for 3 months and
   82  bedridden for 7 months, resulting in two painful bed sores, and
   83         WHEREAS, in July of 2019, while turning Ms. Perez to
   84  prevent pressure sores, a nurse re-injured her fractured arm,
   85  and
   86         WHEREAS, in August of 2019, Ms. Perez’s bladder was
   87  inadvertently nicked during a surgery to insert a plate into her
   88  pelvis, causing internal bleeding and necessitating a repair
   89  surgery, and
   90         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez remained hospitalized and in a nursing
   91  home for almost 8 months following the crash, and
   92         WHEREAS, being bedridden and immobile has caused bowel
   93  obstructions leading to multiple emergency room visits, and
   94         WHEREAS, because of blood loss and infection, Ms. Perez has
   95  suffered renal tubular necrosis and permanent kidney failure,
   96  and
   97         WHEREAS, Mr. Eiland transports Ms. Perez to Jacksonville
   98  three times per week for kidney dialysis because she is in
   99  chronic, end-stage kidney failure, meaning she will either go on
  100  a kidney donor list as a candidate for transplant or remain on
  101  dialysis for the rest of her life, and
  102         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffers from incontinence and, due to
  103  her dialysis catheter, she is unable to shower or bathe, relying
  104  instead on a process of cleaning herself with wet towelettes
  105  which typically takes an hour or more to complete, and
  106         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffers substantial bodily pain when
  107  trying to accomplish simple tasks of daily living and
  108  experiences interrupted sleep on a nightly basis, and
  109         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffers from chronic migraine headaches
  110  and severe elevated blood pressure, which has resulted in
  111  multiple emergency care visits, and
  112         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez has symptoms of traumatic head injury,
  113  including memory loss, confusion, communication difficulties,
  114  fatigue, frustration, and depression, and is under the treatment
  115  of a neurologist, and
  116         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez has undergone dozens of surgeries and is
  117  faced with countless more, and past medical bills amount to more
  118  than $4 million for her care and treatment due to injuries
  119  resulting from the crash, and
  120         WHEREAS, the cost of future medical care, treatment, and
  121  equipment needs is estimated to be $6 million over the course of
  122  her life expectancy, and
  123         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez’s health insurance was recently switched
  124  from Cigna to Blue Cross, which requires a copay of 40 percent,
  125  and
  126         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez seeks the total sum of $15 million in
  127  equitable relief from the Legislature for the satisfaction of
  128  her injuries and damages, NOW, THEREFORE,
  130  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  132         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
  133  found and declared to be true.
  134         Section 2. The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is
  135  authorized and directed to appropriate from funds not otherwise
  136  encumbered and to pay Julia Perez an initial lump sum of $5
  137  million. For 5 years following the initial lump sum payment, the
  138  St. Johns County Sherriff’s Office shall annually pay Julia
  139  Perez $2 million, for a total payment of $15 million as
  140  compensation for the injuries and damages sustained by Julia
  141  Perez due to the negligence of an employee of the St. Johns
  142  County Sheriff’s Office.
  143         Section 3. It is the intent of the Legislature that all
  144  lien interests held by the state, if any, resulting from the
  145  treatment and care of Julia Perez for the occurrences described
  146  in this act are waived.
  147         Section 4. The amount awarded under this act is intended to
  148  provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims
  149  arising out of the factual situation described in the preamble
  150  to this act. The total amount paid for attorney fees relating to
  151  this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded under
  152  this act.
  153         Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.