Florida Senate - 2023                              (NP)    SB 22
       By Senator Bradley
       5-00102-23                                              202322__
    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 an
    4         appropriation to compensate Julia Perez for personal
    5         injuries and damages sustained as a result of the
    6         negligence of an employee of the St. Johns County
    7         Sheriff’s Office; providing legislative intent for the
    8         waiver of certain lien interests; providing a
    9         limitation on compensation and the payment of attorney
   10         fees; providing an effective date.
   12         WHEREAS, at 5:09 p.m. on April 7, 2019, Julia Perez, then
   13  51 years of age, and her companion, Tom Eiland, then 59 years of
   14  age, were both wearing helmets and lawfully operating separate
   15  motorcycles within the posted speed limit, traveling east on
   16  State Road 16 in the correct travel lane in unincorporated St.
   17  Johns County, and
   18         WHEREAS, at the same time, Deputy Brandon Hetzler, then 28
   19  years of age, a newly sworn employee of the St. Johns County
   20  Sheriff’s Office (SJSO), acting in the course and scope of his
   21  employment, was operating a marked SJSO patrol vehicle and
   22  traveling west on State Road 16 in the left turn lane at the
   23  intersection of State Road 16 and Harvest Lane, and
   24         WHEREAS, the afternoon sky was clear, the road was dry, and
   25  there were no obstructions when Deputy Hetzler suddenly entered
   26  the intersection of State Road 16 and Harvest Lane and attempted
   27  a left turn directly in front of both motorcycles operated by
   28  Ms. Perez and Mr. Eiland, and
   29         WHEREAS, the front right side of Deputy Hetzler’s vehicle
   30  collided with the front of Ms. Perez’s motorcycle, ejecting Ms.
   31  Perez from her motorcycle, with her making contact with the hood
   32  of the patrol car and propelling over the roof, striking the
   33  trunk before she landed on the pavement of State Road 16, and
   34         WHEREAS, the front right side of Deputy Hetzler’s vehicle
   35  collided with the left side of Mr. Eiland’s motorcycle, ejecting
   36  Mr. Eiland from his motorcycle and onto the pavement, and
   37         WHEREAS, the Florida Highway Patrol’s traffic crash
   38  investigators conducted an extensive investigation of the
   39  accident, which included preparation for a traffic homicide
   40  reconstruction due to Ms. Perez’s grave condition, and
   41         WHEREAS, witnesses on the scene told investigators that at
   42  the time of the crash, the eastbound traffic had a steady green
   43  signal and that Ms. Perez and Mr. Eiland had the right of way,
   44  and
   45         WHEREAS, the investigation revealed that Deputy Hetzler had
   46  overheard a service call and was responding to it but he did not
   47  activate his siren or emergency lights, and
   48         WHEREAS, the investigation determined that the actions of
   49  Ms. Perez and Mr. Eiland were reasonable and did not contribute
   50  to or cause the collisions, and
   51         WHEREAS, the Florida Highway Patrol investigation found
   52  Deputy Hetzler to be solely at fault in the accident and issued
   53  him a traffic citation for failure to yield to oncoming traffic
   54  in violation of s. 316.122, Florida Statutes, and
   55         WHEREAS, SJSO policy 61.16 states, “It shall be the
   56  responsibility of each employee to operate agency vehicles
   57  efficiently, maintain the vehicle, and drive the vehicle in
   58  observance of all rules of the road in order to reduce the
   59  likelihood of traffic crashes or injury,” and
   60         WHEREAS, SJSO policy 61.16 also states, “All crashes and
   61  incidents involving agency vehicle damage shall be reviewed by
   62  the Traffic Crash Review Board within thirty days of the crash,”
   63  and
   64         WHEREAS, the SJSO Traffic Crash Review Board found Deputy
   65  Hetzler to be at fault for causing the crash and injuries, and
   66         WHEREAS, Deputy Hetzler’s negligence was the sole cause of
   67  the collision, and
   68         WHEREAS, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office admitted
   69  negligence for causing the collision and liability for Ms.
   70  Perez’s injuries, and
   71         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffered multiple open and comminuted
   72  fractures of the pelvis, arms, and legs, as well as organ
   73  lacerations and punctures, including a punctured left lung,
   74  resulting in cardiopulmonary arrest due to blood loss, and
   75         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez was found unresponsive at the scene of
   76  the accident and had to be resuscitated on the street by first
   77  responders before St. Johns County Fire Rescue arrived to assume
   78  rescue efforts, and
   79         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez was intubated in the field and rushed to
   80  the Trauma Center at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, arriving
   81  comatose and undergoing a series of blood transfusions, and
   82         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez spent 3 months on a ventilator and
   83  feeding tube; battled a pulmonary embolism, a deep vein
   84  thrombosis, and episodes of pneumonia; suffered at least one
   85  myocardial infarction; and endured multiple systemic infections,
   86  and
   87         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez was unconscious for 3 months and
   88  bedridden for 7 months, resulting in two painful bed sores, and
   89         WHEREAS, in July of 2019, a nurse reinjured Ms. Perez’s
   90  fractured arm while turning her to prevent pressure sores, and
   91         WHEREAS, in August of 2019, Ms. Perez’s bladder was
   92  inadvertently nicked during a surgery to insert a plate into her
   93  pelvis, causing internal bleeding and necessitating a repair
   94  surgery, and
   95         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez remained hospitalized and was in a
   96  nursing home for almost 8 months following the crash, and
   97         WHEREAS, being bedridden and immobile has caused Ms. Perez
   98  to suffer bowel obstructions, leading to multiple emergency care
   99  visits, and
  100         WHEREAS, because of blood loss and infection, Ms. Perez has
  101  suffered renal tubular necrosis and permanent kidney injury, and
  102         WHEREAS, Mr. Eiland has transported Ms. Perez to
  103  Jacksonville three times per week for kidney dialysis because
  104  she is in chronic, end-stage kidney failure, meaning she will
  105  likely either be placed on a kidney donor list as a transplant
  106  candidate or be on dialysis for the rest of her life, and
  107         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffers from incontinence and, due to
  108  her dialysis catheter, is unable to shower or bathe, and instead
  109  relies on a process of cleaning herself with wet towelettes,
  110  which typically takes an hour or longer to complete, and
  111         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffers from substantial pain when
  112  trying to accomplish simple tasks of daily living and
  113  experiences interrupted sleep on a nightly basis, and
  114         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffers from chronic migraine headaches
  115  and severe elevated blood pressure, which has resulted in
  116  multiple emergency care visits, and
  117         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez has suffered a traumatic brain injury as
  118  a result of the crash, causing memory loss, confusion,
  119  communication difficulties, fatigue, frustration, and
  120  depression, and she is under the treatment of a neurologist, and
  121         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez has undergone dozens of surgeries and is
  122  faced with many more, and past medical bills and liens amount to
  123  more than $3,863,108.09 for her care and treatment, all due to
  124  injuries resulting from the crash, and
  125         WHEREAS, the costs of future medical care, treatment, and
  126  equipment is estimated to be between $3,318,811.56 and
  127  $4,077,923.57 over the course of her 30-year life expectancy,
  128  and
  129         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez is totally disabled, and her loss of
  130  earning capacity is conservatively estimated to be $282,110,
  131  based on her full Social Security retirement age of 67 and a
  132  minimum-wage earning capacity, and
  133         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez seeks the total sum of $15 million in
  134  equitable relief from the Legislature for satisfaction of her
  135  injuries and damages, NOW, THEREFORE,
  137  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  139         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
  140  found and declared to be true.
  141         Section 2. The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is
  142  authorized and directed to appropriate from funds of the county
  143  not otherwise encumbered and to pay Julia Perez $15 million, or
  144  an alternative amount not to exceed $15 million in the event the
  145  parties reach an agreement, to compensate her for the injuries
  146  and damages she sustained due to the negligence of an employee
  147  of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.
  148         Section 3. It is in the intent of the Legislature that all
  149  lien interests held by the state, if any, resulting from the
  150  treatment and care of Julia Perez for the occurrences described
  151  in this act are waived.
  152         Section 4. The amount awarded under this act is intended to
  153  provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims
  154  arising out of the factual situation described in this act which
  155  resulted in injuries and damages to Julia Perez. The total
  156  amount paid for attorney fees relating to this claim may not
  157  exceed 25 percent of the total amount awarded under this act.
  158         Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.