With Friday’s deadline, about 30 claims bills were filed in the Florida Senate. A few of them seeking to further compensate different victims are controversial.
As an emergency occurs, everyone knows the sound of the siren you hear as police and ambulances hurry to the accident location to help the victims.
But, Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) says that wasn’t the case for a Leon County ambulance driver who struck the car of former elementary school teacher Angela Sanford, after he ran a red light in a non-emergency situation.
“She was legally in the intersection, and unfortunately, a Leon County ambulance driver driving about 40 miles per hour hit her broadside and she received significant injuries, and she was left totally disabled,” said Montford.
Initially in a coma, Sanford’s injuries included a traumatic brain injury. She received $300,000 of a $1.15 million settlement. Montford filed a claim bill to get Sanford the rest through legislative approval.
Montford also filed a claim bill to further compensate a landowner for a prescribed burn-gone-wrong that destroyed more than 800 acres of the landowner’s property in Franklin County.
Another claim bill by Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) seeks to compensate the family of Devaughn Darling, a football player who collapsed and died while participating in pre-season training at Florida State University about 15 years ago.
Joyner says it’s a settlement of $2 million—200,000 of which the family received.
“Bear in mind, that this particular claim, the parents and FSU…the parties all agree and they have a stipulated settlement. So, that should have some bearing on it. It’s not like they’re at odds for each other,” said Joyner.
Usually, the amount asked for in a claims bill is uncontested and agreed to by both parties. But, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami)—who filed the second highest number of claims bills totaling three—has one that does have a contested claim.
The controversial claims bill would pay more than $825,000 to Thomas Brandi, injured when he was broadsided by a Haines City police officer.
“You have a police officer who didn’t follow departmental policy, who ran a red light, and who broadsided an individual and injured him,” said Diaz de la Portilla. “The injuries included a torn aorta, a fractured sternum, a fractured rib, a fractured fibula, multiple pelvic fractures, and a brain injury. That was determined by a jury.”
But, it failed 6-2 in its last committee stop in the recent legislative session over the way the claims bill was done. That’s what Jason Unger argued. He represents the side against giving Brandi more than the $200,000, he says both sides had later agreed to.
“It was suggested there was a $1.8 million verdict, which is accurate,” said Unger. “Plaintiff’s counsel submitted to the court a final judgment in the amount of $200,000, which the city of Haines City paid. Therefore, there is no excess final judgment in this case, and Florida statute, 768.28 sub 5 requires that there be an excess judgment before it can be sent to the Legislature.”
Another controversial claims bill filed last year dealt with compensating a child who was under the state’s care. It’s by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami), who filed the most amount of claims bill this year totaling five.
In this particular claims bill, it seeks to give Victor Barahona and his caregivers $3.75 million for the mistreatment he and his twin sister Nubia—who was killed—suffered at the hands of his former adoptive parents. It included choking, beatings, and eating feces.
It was a bill originally filed last year by Flores, but at the time, the Senate President’s lawyer recommended to hold off on the compensation because it could affect other cases against the former adoptive parents.
Last year, Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) expressed outrage over that development.
“It’s a disgrace what has happened to these children, and the state gave its word, and the state needs to live up to its word,” said Sobel, at the time.
The $3.75 million—one of the highest figures of the close to 30 claims bills filed in the Senate—is part of a $5 million settlement the Florida Department of Children and Families—which admitted negligence—agreed to pay.
Others include compensation for more injured victims as well as those who suffered sexual assault.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.