Florida Senate - 2024                              (NP)    SB 10
       By Senator Bradley
       6-00088-24                                              202410__
    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 being propelled over the roof, striking
   33  the trunk before she landed on the pavement of State Road 16,
   34  and
   35         WHEREAS, the front right side of Deputy Hetzler’s vehicle
   36  collided with the left side of Mr. Eiland’s motorcycle, ejecting
   37  Mr. Eiland from his motorcycle and onto the pavement, and
   38         WHEREAS, the Florida Highway Patrol’s traffic crash
   39  investigators conducted an extensive investigation of the
   40  accident, which included preparation for a traffic homicide
   41  reconstruction due to Ms. Perez’s grave condition, and
   42         WHEREAS, witnesses on the scene told investigators that at
   43  the time of the crash, the eastbound traffic had a steady green
   44  signal and that Ms. Perez and Mr. Eiland had the right of way,
   45  and
   46         WHEREAS, the investigation revealed that Deputy Hetzler had
   47  overheard a service call and was responding to it, but he did
   48  not activate his siren or emergency lights, and
   49         WHEREAS, the investigation determined that the actions of
   50  Ms. Perez and Mr. Eiland were reasonable and did not contribute
   51  to or cause the collisions, and
   52         WHEREAS, the Florida Highway Patrol investigation found
   53  Deputy Hetzler to be solely at fault in the accident and issued
   54  him a traffic citation for failure to yield to oncoming traffic
   55  in violation of s. 316.122, Florida Statutes, and
   56         WHEREAS, SJSO policy 61.16 states, “It shall be the
   57  responsibility of each employee to operate agency vehicles
   58  efficiently, maintain the vehicle, and drive the vehicle in
   59  observance of all rules of the road in order to reduce the
   60  likelihood of traffic crashes or injury,” and
   61         WHEREAS, SJSO policy 61.16 also states, “All crashes and
   62  incidents involving agency vehicle damage shall be reviewed by
   63  the Traffic Crash Review Board within thirty days of the crash,”
   64  and
   65         WHEREAS, the SJSO Traffic Crash Review Board found Deputy
   66  Hetzler to be at fault for causing the crash and injuries, and
   67         WHEREAS, Deputy Hetzler’s negligence was the sole cause of
   68  the collisions, and
   69         WHEREAS, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office admitted
   70  negligence for causing the collision and liability for Ms.
   71  Perez’s injuries, and
   72         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffered multiple open and comminuted
   73  fractures of the pelvis, arms, and legs, as well as organ
   74  lacerations and punctures, including a punctured left lung,
   75  resulting in cardiopulmonary arrest due to blood loss, and
   76         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez was found unresponsive at the scene of
   77  the accident and had to be resuscitated on the street by first
   78  responders before St. Johns County Fire Rescue arrived to assume
   79  rescue efforts, and
   80         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez was intubated in the field and rushed to
   81  the Trauma Center at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, arriving
   82  comatose and undergoing a series of blood transfusions, and
   83         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez spent 3 months on a ventilator and
   84  feeding tube; battled a pulmonary embolism, a deep vein
   85  thrombosis, and episodes of pneumonia; suffered at least one
   86  myocardial infarction; and endured multiple systemic infections,
   87  and
   88         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez was unconscious for 3 months and
   89  bedridden for 7 months, resulting in two painful pressure sores,
   90  and
   91         WHEREAS, in July 2019, a nurse reinjured Ms. Perez’s
   92  fractured arm while turning her to prevent pressure sores, and
   93         WHEREAS, in August 2019, Ms. Perez’s bladder was
   94  inadvertently nicked during a surgery to insert a plate into her
   95  pelvis, causing internal bleeding and necessitating a repair
   96  surgery, and
   97         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez remained hospitalized and was in a
   98  nursing home for almost 8 months following the crash, and
   99         WHEREAS, being bedridden and immobile have caused Ms. Perez
  100  to suffer bowel obstructions, leading to multiple emergency care
  101  visits, and
  102         WHEREAS, because of blood loss and infection, Ms. Perez has
  103  suffered renal tubular necrosis and permanent kidney injury, and
  104         WHEREAS, Mr. Eiland has transported Ms. Perez to
  105  Jacksonville three times per week for kidney dialysis because
  106  she is in chronic, end-stage kidney failure, meaning she will
  107  likely either be placed on a kidney donor list as a transplant
  108  candidate or be on dialysis for the rest of her life, and
  109         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffers from incontinence and, due to
  110  her dialysis catheter, is unable to shower or bathe, and instead
  111  relies on a process of cleaning herself with wet towelettes,
  112  which typically takes an hour or longer to complete, and
  113         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffers from substantial pain when
  114  trying to accomplish simple tasks of daily living and
  115  experiences interrupted sleep on a nightly basis, and
  116         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez suffers from chronic migraine headaches
  117  and severely elevated blood pressure, which has resulted in
  118  multiple emergency care visits, and
  119         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez has suffered a traumatic brain injury as
  120  a result of the crash, causing memory loss, confusion,
  121  communication difficulties, fatigue, frustration, and
  122  depression, and she is under the treatment of a neurologist, and
  123         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez has undergone dozens of surgeries and is
  124  faced with many more, and past medical bills and liens amount to
  125  more than $3,863,108.09 for her care and treatment, all due to
  126  injuries resulting from the crash, and
  127         WHEREAS, the costs of future medical care, treatment, and
  128  equipment is estimated to be between $3,318,811.56 and
  129  $4,077,923.57 over the course of her 30-year life expectancy,
  130  and
  131         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez is totally disabled, and her loss of
  132  earning capacity is conservatively estimated to be $282,110,
  133  based on her full Social Security retirement age of 67 and a
  134  minimum-wage earning capacity, and
  135         WHEREAS, Ms. Perez seeks the total sum of $15 million in
  136  equitable relief from the Legislature for satisfaction of her
  137  injuries and damages, NOW, THEREFORE,
  139  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  141         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
  142  found and declared to be true.
  143         Section 2. The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is
  144  authorized and directed to appropriate from funds of the county
  145  not otherwise encumbered and to pay Julia Perez $15 million, or
  146  an alternative amount not to exceed $15 million in the event the
  147  parties reach an agreement, to compensate her for the injuries
  148  and damages she sustained due to the negligence of an employee
  149  of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.
  150         Section 3. It is the intent of the Legislature that all
  151  lien interests held by the state, if any, resulting from the
  152  treatment and care of Julia Perez for the occurrences described
  153  in this act are waived.
  154         Section 4. The amount awarded under this act is intended to
  155  provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims
  156  arising out of the factual situation described in this act which
  157  resulted in injuries and damages to Julia Perez. The total
  158  amount paid for attorney fees relating to this claim may not
  159  exceed 25 percent of the total amount awarded under this act.
  160         Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.