ENROLLED 2023 Legislature SB 4 20234er 1 2 An act for the relief of Maria Garcia by the Pinellas 3 County School Board; providing an appropriation to 4 compensate her for injuries sustained as a result of 5 the negligence of an employee of the Pinellas County 6 School Board; providing legislative intent regarding 7 the waiver of certain liens; providing a limitation on 8 compensation and the payment of attorney fees; 9 providing an effective date. 10 11 WHEREAS, on February 13, 2019, at about 7 a.m., Maria 12 Garcia, then a 41-year-old single mother of two daughters, 13 walked her usual route to a convenience store located at the 14 intersection of U.S. 19 and Curlew Road in Clearwater, on her 15 way to catch a bus for work at a local thrift store, and 16 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia’s route to the convenience store 17 required her to walk north along U.S. 19, then cross Curlew Road 18 and continue on U.S. 19, and 19 WHEREAS, it was raining lightly, and Ms. Garcia was wearing 20 a bright red jacket and holding a large blue umbrella over her 21 head, and 22 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia entered the marked crosswalk when the 23 traffic light to cross Curlew Road turned green and the “walk” 24 icon on the pedestrian traffic signal gave her the right of way, 25 and 26 WHEREAS, while in the crosswalk, Ms. Garcia was struck by a 27 school bus carrying 28 students driven by Patricia Gavin, an 28 employee of the Pinellas County School Board, and 29 WHEREAS, the right front side of the bus hit Ms. Garcia 30 squarely, her umbrella flew upward on impact, and she was thrown 31 out of the crosswalk to the pavement, and 32 WHEREAS, the rear wheels of the bus then ran over Ms. 33 Garcia as the bus turned, and Ms. Garcia was left directly 34 behind the bus in the westbound lanes of Curlew Road, just east 35 of the crosswalk, and 36 WHEREAS, the bus left the scene, and Ms. Gavin did not 37 report anything unusual, and 38 WHEREAS, when later questioned, Ms. Gavin said she “heard a 39 thump” but thought she had hit the curb, and 40 WHEREAS, Ms. Gavin later admitted that she had not followed 41 her authorized route and that she was unable to see Ms. Garcia 42 because the front windshield of the school bus was fogged and 43 her vision was obscured, and 44 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia was transported by ambulance to 45 Bayfront Hospital in St. Petersburg, the closest trauma center 46 to the accident site, and 47 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia was treated for multiple life 48 threatening injuries, including broken pelvic bones, fractures 49 in her left and right hip joints, fractures in her lumbar spine 50 and ribs, a fractured left shoulder blade, a large area of torn 51 skin from her upper leg, injuries to ligaments in her right 52 knee, a damaged spleen, a collapsed left lung, internal 53 bleeding, and other internal injuries, and 54 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia was hospitalized for more than 2 55 months, 1 month of which was spent in intensive care, during 56 which time she underwent multiple surgeries, skin grafts, pain 57 management, and therapy, and 58 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia’s right arm sustained nerve damage, 59 rendering the arm immobile and causing her to have great 60 difficulty writing, gripping objects, or using the fingers of 61 her right hand, and 62 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia suffered a traumatic brain injury, 63 likely from a posttraumatic stroke, and exhibits associated 64 deficits in memory, concentration, executive function, and 65 language skills, and 66 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia has never recovered from her injuries, 67 continues to limp, has trouble keeping her balance, and cannot 68 walk more than the length of a room without a walker or other 69 assistance, and 70 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia struggles with daily living, cannot 71 lift pots and pans or stay on her feet long enough to cook, and 72 her brain injuries often prevent her from remembering the right 73 ingredients or sequences for preparing food, and 74 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia’s skin grafts have become infected 75 several times, and she has had to return to the emergency room 76 to have them treated, and 77 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia’s medical bills total $1,988,328.11 and 78 continue to increase as she suffers residual accident-related 79 conditions, and 80 WHEREAS, at the time of her injury, Ms. Garcia made $9 per 81 hour and worked 40 hours per week as a stocker in a thrift shop, 82 equating to $18,000 per year, and has now been out of work for 83 more than 3 years with lost wages totaling $60,000, and 84 WHEREAS, a life care plan created by Dr. Gloydian Cruz, a 85 physician board certified in physical medicine and 86 rehabilitation, calculated that Ms. Garcia will require future 87 care of $1,206,645.99, with a present value of $1,431,321, and 88 WHEREAS, Ms. Garcia has a work-life expectancy of 24 more 89 years, resulting in a loss of future earning capacity of 90 $432,000 before reduction to present value, and 91 WHEREAS, in resolving the civil action brought in the 92 Circuit Court for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, in and for 93 Pinellas County, Maria Garcia vs. the School Board of Pinellas 94 County, Case No. 19-008530-CI, the Pinellas County School Board 95 admitted liability and agreed to a Consent Judgment entered on 96 May 16, 2022, against the Pinellas County School Board in the 97 amount of $3 million with interest accruing at the statutory 98 rate, NOW, THEREFORE, 99 100 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 101 102 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 103 found and declared to be true. 104 Section 2. In addition to the $200,000 already paid to 105 Maria Garcia, the Pinellas County School Board is authorized and 106 directed to appropriate from funds of the school board not 107 otherwise encumbered and to draw a warrant in the sum of $2.8 108 million payable to Maria Garcia as compensation for injuries and 109 damages sustained by Maria Garcia due to the negligence of an 110 employee of the Pinellas County School Board. 111 Section 3. Excluding the federal portions of any liens, 112 Medicaid or otherwise, which the claimant must satisfy pursuant 113 to s. 409.910, Florida Statutes, it is the intent of the 114 Legislature that the lien interests relating to the care and 115 treatment of Maria Garcia are hereby waived and extinguished. 116 Section 4. The amount paid by the Pinellas County School 117 Board pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount 118 awarded under this act are intended to provide the sole 119 compensation to Maria Garcia for all present and future claims 120 arising out of the factual situation described in this act. The 121 total amount paid for attorney fees relating to this claim may 122 not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded under this act. 123 Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.