Florida Senate - 2023                              (NP)    SB 20
       
       
        
       By Senator Wright
       
       
       
       
       
       14-00097-23                                             202320__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act for the relief of Maury Hernandez; providing an
    3         appropriation to compensate Maury Hernandez, a former
    4         Broward County Sheriff’s Office deputy, for injuries
    5         and damages sustained as a consequence of the alleged
    6         negligence of the Department of Corrections in the
    7         course of his employment; providing legislative intent
    8         that certain liens be waived; providing a limitation
    9         on the payment of compensation and attorney fees;
   10         providing an effective date.
   11  
   12         WHEREAS, on August 6, 2007, Broward County Sheriff’s Office
   13  Deputy Maury Hernandez, then 28 years old, was operating a
   14  vehicle assigned to him by the office within the office’s
   15  jurisdiction, and
   16         WHEREAS, at approximately 11:45 a.m., Deputy Hernandez
   17  observed David Maldonado as the operator of a motorcycle that
   18  failed to stop at three traffic signals on Pembroke Road, and
   19         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez followed Mr. Maldonado to a
   20  location within the 3700 block of Pembroke Road, where he
   21  approached Mr. Maldonado, still on the motorcycle, identified
   22  himself as a deputy sheriff, and displayed his badge, and
   23         WHEREAS, Mr. Maldonado, after falsely identifying himself
   24  as a police officer from Opa-locka, suddenly pushed Deputy
   25  Hernandez, jumped from his motorcycle, and fled the scene on
   26  foot, at which time Deputy Hernandez gave chase, also on foot,
   27  and
   28         WHEREAS, within seconds, Mr. Maldonado turned and fired two
   29  rounds from a .45 caliber handgun, hitting Deputy Hernandez in
   30  the head with one of those rounds, and
   31         WHEREAS, critically wounded, Deputy Hernandez was rushed to
   32  Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, where he remained in a
   33  coma and on life support for 3 weeks, underwent multiple
   34  surgeries, and remained hospitalized for nearly 3 months before
   35  being discharged to the care of a rehabilitation hospital, and
   36         WHEREAS, after his discharge, Deputy Hernandez was confined
   37  to a wheelchair, underwent daylong physical, occupational,
   38  speech, visual, and cognitive therapy each weekday for a year,
   39  and received regular painful Botox injections and other
   40  medication to improve his muscle tone and reduce spasticity, and
   41         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez continued to receive physical and
   42  occupational therapies and other medical care on a daily basis
   43  for more than 3 additional years until his insurance provider
   44  discontinued payments to his health care providers, and
   45         WHEREAS, after the shooting, Mr. Maldonado was apprehended
   46  by Hollywood police in a nearby condominium complex where he
   47  attempted a carjacking, and
   48         WHEREAS, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, commonly
   49  referred to as the BSO, began a full investigation into the
   50  circumstances surrounding the shooting, later concluding that,
   51  had the Department of Corrections, hereinafter referred to as
   52  “the department,” brought repeated violations of his probation
   53  to the attention of the state attorney’s office and the
   54  presiding circuit judge, Mr. Maldonado would have been in jail
   55  at the time of the shooting, and
   56         WHEREAS, the investigation found that on April 18, 2007,
   57  Mr. Maldonado, a habitual traffic offender, pled no contest to
   58  felony traffic charges and was placed on probation for 24
   59  months, and
   60         WHEREAS, at the time of his placement on probation, Mr.
   61  Maldonado had accrued nearly 40 traffic and administrative
   62  violations, including reckless driving, speeding, and driving
   63  without a license, and
   64         WHEREAS, Mr. Maldonado was advised in writing of the
   65  department’s zero-tolerance policy for the reporting of
   66  violations of supervision conditions, which stated, “The
   67  Department of Corrections has a zero-tolerance policy as to
   68  reporting violations of supervision conditions. This is
   69  notification to you that you are subject to proceedings,
   70  including arrest, if you are not in compliance with all
   71  conditions of supervision as required by the sentencing court or
   72  releasing authority,” and
   73         WHEREAS, s. 948.03, Florida Statutes, then prohibited
   74  probationers from possessing, carrying, or owning any firearm
   75  unless authorized by the court and consented to by the probation
   76  officer, and
   77         WHEREAS, s. 948.03, Florida Statutes, then prohibited
   78  probationers from using intoxicants to excess or possessing any
   79  drugs or narcotics unless prescribed by a physician, and
   80         WHEREAS, further, the terms of Mr. Maldonado’s probation
   81  specifically prohibited him from carrying a weapon absent a
   82  court order allowing him to do so and from using alcohol in
   83  excess and nonprescribed drugs, and required that he submit
   84  complete and honest monthly reports to his probation officer,
   85  and
   86         WHEREAS, Mr. Maldonado failed to comply with any of these
   87  terms of his probation, which was known or should have been
   88  known to his probation officer, an employee of the department,
   89  and
   90         WHEREAS, in fact, Mr. Maldonado admitted to his probation
   91  officer that he possessed a firearm, which Mr. Maldonado
   92  attempted to justify by falsely claiming that he was employed as
   93  a security officer and serving in the military, and
   94         WHEREAS, Mr. Maldonado admitted to using alcohol and
   95  nonprescribed drugs, and
   96         WHEREAS, the BSO investigation found that the department
   97  unreasonably failed to verify any of Mr. Maldonado’s statements
   98  regarding his employment and military service or to otherwise
   99  act on any of his probation violations, and
  100         WHEREAS, the department knew or reasonably should have
  101  known that Mr. Maldonado lied about his place of employment, his
  102  military service, and the reasons he stated for possessing a
  103  firearm, and
  104         WHEREAS, the department failed to act on Mr. Maldonado’s
  105  admitted use of alcohol and nonprescribed drugs or to note his
  106  false statements to his probation officer, and
  107         WHEREAS, by virtue of its own zero-tolerance policy, the
  108  department had a nondiscretionary duty to timely report Mr.
  109  Maldonado’s violations of these laws and the terms of his
  110  probation to the state attorney’s office and the presiding
  111  circuit judge, and
  112         WHEREAS, to this day, the department has never explained
  113  why its zero-tolerance policy on reporting violations of
  114  supervision conditions was not enforced with regard to Mr.
  115  Maldonado, and the state attorney’s office has stated publicly
  116  that his violations should have been reported to the office and
  117  the presiding circuit judge, and
  118         WHEREAS, the State Attorney’s office maintains that if Mr.
  119  Maldonado’s violations had been so reported, he would have been
  120  jailed without bail and not on the streets at the time that he
  121  shot Deputy Hernandez, and
  122         WHEREAS, as a result of the shooting, Deputy Hernandez
  123  suffers from permanent brain injury and resulting hemiparesis to
  124  the entire left side of his body, motor and sensory nerve
  125  damage, spasticity, numbness and severe muscle weakness,
  126  impaired walking and balance abilities, hydrocephalus that is
  127  treated with a permanent ventriculoperitoneal shunt, and
  128  cognitive deficits, and fragments of the bullet are permanently
  129  lodged in his brain, and
  130         WHEREAS, without professional assistance, Deputy Hernandez
  131  continues to engage in physical and occupational therapy to
  132  improve his hemiparesis, but continues to require medical care
  133  and professional therapy treatments to maintain maximum medical
  134  stability, and
  135         WHEREAS, at the time of his injury Deputy Hernandez was
  136  earning a salary of approximately $60,000 annually and generous
  137  benefits, including medical and retirement benefits, and
  138         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez attempted to return to work at
  139  the BSO but was unable to perform to minimum standards, and
  140         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez’s injuries have catastrophically
  141  changed his life, and he is unable to earn a living, and
  142         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez has suffered significant economic
  143  damages, including lost income and the capacity to earn income
  144  and related benefits, including medical insurance and retirement
  145  benefits, and
  146         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez received worker compensation
  147  benefits that have covered a portion of his lost income and
  148  medical care costs, but liens have been filed amounting to
  149  hundreds of thousands of dollars, and
  150         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez is now 43 years old and has a
  151  life expectancy of 42.6 years according to the United States
  152  Life Tables, 2008, of the United States Centers for Disease
  153  Control and Prevention, and
  154         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez has suffered devastating and
  155  permanent injuries and damages, including pain and suffering,
  156  total disability, physical and mental impairment, disfigurement,
  157  mental anguish, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life,
  158  hospital and medical care expenses, loss of earnings and earning
  159  capacity, loss of benefits, including medical and retirement
  160  income benefits, financial ruin, and other economic and
  161  noneconomic losses, and
  162         WHEREAS, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Deputy Hernandez
  163  in the 17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County which
  164  sought relief under s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, but it was
  165  dismissed by the trial court, which held that, despite the
  166  department’s failure to follow its own policies and procedures
  167  and state law, the department owed no duty of care to Deputy
  168  Hernandez, and
  169         WHEREAS, appeals of the court’s ruling would be fruitless
  170  and only cause further delay in addressing the wrongs that have
  171  been inflicted on Deputy Hernandez, and
  172         WHEREAS, despite the ruling by the court that he is without
  173  legal remedy to seek damages, Deputy Hernandez respectfully
  174  requests that the Legislature find that, based on its commitment
  175  to justice being served, a moral obligation exists in this
  176  unique and tragic set of circumstances to provide relief, and
  177         WHEREAS, Deputy Hernandez respectfully requests that, as a
  178  matter of grace, the Legislature exercise its authority to
  179  appropriate funds to compensate him for his injuries,
  180  disabilities, and economic damages, and
  181         WHEREAS, given the facts and circumstances that resulted in
  182  his injuries and damages, Deputy Hernandez seeks equitable
  183  relief from the Legislature, NOW, THEREFORE,
  184  
  185  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  186  
  187         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
  188  found and declared to be true.
  189         Section 2. The sum of $10 million is appropriated from the
  190  General Revenue Fund to the Department of Corrections for the
  191  relief of Maury Hernandez for injuries and damages sustained.
  192         Section 3. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw
  193  a warrant in favor of Maury Hernandez in the amount of $10
  194  million upon funds of the Department of Corrections in the State
  195  Treasury, and the Chief Financial Officer is directed to pay the
  196  same out of such funds in the State Treasury.
  197         Section 4. It is the intent of the Legislature that any
  198  lien interests held by the state arising from the treatment and
  199  care of Maury Hernandez for the occurrences described in this
  200  act be waived.
  201         Section 5. The amount awarded under this act is intended to
  202  provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims
  203  arising out of the factual situation described in the preamble
  204  to this act. The total amount paid for attorney fees relating to
  205  this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded under
  206  this act.
  207         Section 6. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.