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. 11 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, 138 139 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 140 141 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.