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. 10 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, 129 130 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 131 132 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.