2023 Legislature                                            SB 4
    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.
   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,
  100  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  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.