ENROLLED 2023 Legislature CS for SB 12 202312er 1 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 four warrants in the sum of $300,000 75 each, payable to Ricardo Medrano-Arzate and Eva Chavez-Medrano 76 for damages awarded in connection with the death of their 77 daughter, Hilda Medrano. The first $300,000 shall be paid within 78 30 days after the effective date of this act, and the three 79 remaining payments shall each be paid by July 1 of each of the 80 following years. 81 Section 3. The amount paid by the Okeechobee County 82 Sheriff’s Office and awarded under this act is intended to 83 provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims 84 arising out of the factual situation described in this act which 85 resulted in the award of damages to Ricardo Medrano-Arzate and 86 Eva Chavez-Medrano, as personal representatives of Hilda 87 Medrano. The total amount paid for attorney fees relating to 88 this claim may not exceed $240,000, the total amount paid for 89 lobbying fees may not exceed $60,000, and the total amount paid 90 for costs or other similar expenses may not exceed $4,945.49. 91 Section 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.