Florida Senate - 2023                              (NP)    SB 12
       
       
        
       By Senator Polsky
       
       
       
       
       
       29-00064-23                                             202312__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act for the relief of Ricardo Medrano-Arzate and
    3         Eva Chavez-Medrano, as personal representatives of
    4         Hilda Medrano, by the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s
    5         Office; providing for an appropriation of funds to pay
    6         Ricardo Medrano-Arzate and Eva Chavez-Medrano for the
    7         damages awarded in connection with the death of their
    8         daughter as a result of the negligence of the
    9         Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office; providing a
   10         limitation on the payment of compensation, attorney
   11         and lobbying fees, and costs or similar expenses;
   12         providing an effective date.
   13  
   14         WHEREAS, shortly after 2 a.m. on December 1, 2013, Hilda
   15  Medrano was riding in the passenger side of her cousin’s
   16  vehicle, traveling eastbound on State Road 70 in downtown
   17  Okeechobee, and
   18         WHEREAS, at the same time, Okeechobee County Sheriff’s
   19  Deputy Joseph Gracie was driving westbound on State Road 70 at a
   20  speed in excess of 95 miles per hour while responding as backup
   21  to a 911 call for law enforcement assistance, and
   22         WHEREAS, the speed limit on that portion of State Road 70
   23  is 35 miles per hour, and
   24         WHEREAS, Deputy Gracie recklessly sped without activating
   25  his emergency lights or sirens to warn other motorists in the
   26  area of his presence and that he was driving at such a high rate
   27  of speed, and
   28         WHEREAS, Deputy Gracie’s police cruiser struck the vehicle
   29  in which Hilda Medrano was a passenger on the passenger side
   30  door at a speed of 87 miles per hour, killing Hilda Medrano and
   31  her cousin and severely injuring a second passenger in that
   32  vehicle, and
   33         WHEREAS, the Florida Highway Patrol’s investigation found
   34  that Deputy Gracie violated s. 316.126(3) and (5), Florida
   35  Statutes, and
   36         WHEREAS, an Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office internal
   37  affairs department investigation found that Deputy Gracie’s
   38  actions were unbecoming of an officer and in violation of four
   39  standard operating procedures of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s
   40  Office, and
   41         WHEREAS, at the time of her death, Hilda Medrano was a 21
   42  year-old college student with dreams of becoming an X-ray
   43  technician, and
   44         WHEREAS, Hilda Medrano’s parents, Ricardo Medrano-Arzate
   45  and Eva Chavez-Medrano, are legal immigrants to the United
   46  States, who came to this country to work and provide their
   47  children with opportunities to achieve the American dream and
   48  have resided in the Mexican-American community in Okeechobee for
   49  more than 30 years, and
   50         WHEREAS, Ricardo Medrano-Arzate’s and Eva Chavez-Medrano’s
   51  dreams for their daughter Hilda Medrano were destroyed by the
   52  reckless actions of Deputy Gracie, and
   53         WHEREAS, after a 4-day trial, a jury awarded Ricardo
   54  Medrano-Arzate and Eva Chavez-Medrano, as personal
   55  representatives of Hilda Medrano, $5 million in damages, and
   56         WHEREAS, based on the jury’s apportionment of fault,
   57  finding that Deputy Gracie was 88.5 percent liable for the
   58  collision, the trial court reduced the jury’s award to
   59  $4,425,000, and that decision was affirmed by the Fourth
   60  District Court of Appeal, and
   61         WHEREAS, in accordance with the statutory limits of
   62  liability set forth in s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, the
   63  Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office settled the claims of the
   64  other two victims but has not paid any money toward the damages
   65  awarded to Ricardo Medrano-Arzate and Eva Chavez-Medrano, as
   66  personal representatives of Hilda Medrano, NOW, THEREFORE,
   67  
   68  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   69  
   70         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
   71  found and declared to be true.
   72         Section 2. The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office is
   73  authorized and directed to appropriate from funds not otherwise
   74  encumbered and to draw a warrant in the sum of $4,425,000
   75  payable to Ricardo Medrano-Arzate and Eva Chavez-Medrano for
   76  damages awarded in connection with the death of their daughter,
   77  Hilda Medrano.
   78         Section 3. The amount paid by the Okeechobee County
   79  Sheriff’s Office and awarded under this act is intended to
   80  provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims
   81  arising out of the factual situation described in this act which
   82  resulted in the award of damages to Ricardo Medrano-Arzate and
   83  Eva Chavez-Medrano, as personal representatives of Hilda
   84  Medrano. The total amount paid for attorney fees relating to
   85  this claim may not exceed $885,000, the total amount paid for
   86  lobbying fees may not exceed $221,250, and the total amount paid
   87  for costs or other similar expenses may not exceed $4,030.89.
   88         Section 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.