House panel proposes smaller claims bills against USF, Broward County Sheriff
A House panel today approved two $7.5 million claims bills in separate negligence cases against the University of South Florida and Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
Both of those cases got approval from a Senate panel earlier this week for much higher amounts, $25 million against USF and $23 million against the Broward Sheriff.
The two chambers would have to work out the differences in the next week.
The USF case involved a couple who decided to have a second child after a USF geneticist told them future pregnancies would produce healthy children. The couple, Amara and Daniel Estrada, already had one son, who was severely disabled but undiagnosed. Their second son turned out to have the same disorder, later identified as Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome. Both children now require round-the-clock care and depend on feeding tubes.
In 2007, a Hillsborough jury awarded the couple a $23.5 million verdict. But under state sovereign immunity laws, in order to that kind of money from a government agency, their claim requires a special act by the Legislature.
“Seven and a half milion is better than not having anything, but this family is struggling,” said Chris Searcy, lawyer for the Estradas.
In the Broward case, Eric Brody, then 18 years old, was left paralyzed and brain damaged after a speeding Broward Sheriff's Office cruiser crashed into his car more than a decade ago. In 2005, a jury awarded him more than $30 million. His family's claims have failed for years in Tallahassee. But the Brodys have kept trying.