Claims bills for Dillon, Brody moving in House

Feb 24, 2012

Several high profile claims bills have moved a step closer to passing. Regan McCarthy reports a House Committee considered a total of 16 claims measures including the Brody bill and another measure that, if passed, would be one of the highest claims bills in the state’s history.

Lawmakers are considering a measure that would compensate Eric Brody for debilitating injuries he sustained when a speeding Broward County Sheriff official who was late for work crashed into Brody’s car. But the proposal faces some opposition in the House from lawmakers like Boca Raton Republican Representative Bill Hager. Hager says the claims bill process is unfair to people who can’t pay lobbyists to help them get bills before the state.

“Which raises the most fundamental issues of equal protection under both the U.S. and the Florida constitution.

Claims bills are used because the state’s sovereign immunity laws limit the dollar amount a citizen can collect from the state in a lawsuit, capping the amount at 100-thousand dollars per person. In order to receive more than that, the legislature has to give their approval. And Representative Grant, a Republican from Tampa, who is sponsoring the Brody measure says sometimes that’s necessary. He says Brody needs the money for his care.

“Eric at the age of 17 was coming home from work, was hit by a speeding police officer and was left in a condition unable to attend college, unable to care for himself.”

Lawmakers also considered a measure that would compensate Aaron Edwards who suffers from cerebral palsy due to alleged negligence during his birth 14 years ago. The measure, which would be one of  the largest claims bills in the state’s history, would require a public hospital in Lee County to pay about 31 million dollars. Edwards used a computer to plead his case.

“I don’t know what religion you are, but I want you to ask, what would God do? Would he/she make me suffer? Please pass my bill.”

Aaron’s mother says the money would help to care for her son and give him newer technologies so he can communicate and be a contributing member of society. Lawmakers looked at a measure to compensate the family of Rachel Hoffman who was killed on a botched drug sting. Police persuaded Hoffman to participate even though she’d had no training. The House Judiciary Committee passed all three claims bills along with several others. The Brody measure has already passed in the Senate. Senate President Mike Haridopolos named it one of his top priorities this legislative session. Meanwhile the full House has passed a measure to compensate William Dillon who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.