Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

County and state tentatively settle wrongful death claims for Tampa stroke victim

TAMPA — County and state officials have tentatively agreed to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the heirs of a Tampa man who suffered a fatal stroke that went unrecognized as he was arrested and then jailed without treatment for 36 hours.

The settlement would bring to a close litigation in the disturbing case of Allen Daniel Hicks Sr. Mistakes made in Hicks' care have already brought a $1 million payout from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and its private medical contractor and prompted an investigation by state medical regulators.

Now Hillsborough County, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper have also agreed to settle claims brought against them in the case, federal court records show.

This week, attorneys for Hicks' estate filed a notice of settlement in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The settlement amount was not disclosed, but will eventually become public since it must be approved by both the Hillsborough County Commission and a Hillsborough probate judge who will oversee the distribution of the funds to Hicks' children.

Under the terms of their earlier settlement with the Sheriff's Office, Hicks' children are barred from discussing the circumstances of his death. Vernon Slater, a close friend of Hicks, said he was less concerned about the dollar amount of the settlement than with what he sees as a lack of accountability among public officials for the incident.

While the Sheriff's Office performed a detailed internal review of Hicks' jail stay and identified multiple public and private employees who made mistakes, no deputies were formally investigated or disciplined. All of the public employees involved in the incident kept their jobs.

"The part that was really sad to me was that they never accepted responsibility," Slater said. "They threw out a few dollars, but that's never going to make up for a life."

Hicks, 51, was arrested after his car veered into a guardrail on Interstate 275 near Bearss Avenue in May 2012. Already showing signs of impairment, the popular youth baseball coach was arrested by Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Richard Guzman when he did not respond to orders to exit his car.

Over the next two days Hicks' stroke symptoms went undiagnosed and untreated in Hillsborough County jails. During much of that time he lay on the floor of his jail cell, unable to move the left side of his body.

After about 36 hours, he was found lying in his own urine and rushed to Tampa General Hospital, where doctors immediately diagnosed him with an ischemic stroke. He died within three months from complications.

After the Tampa Bay Times reported in July on the circumstances surrounding Hicks' death, the Florida Department of Health began an investigation of the medical care he received.

An internal review of the incident by fire rescue officials faulted a paramedic for "not using the proper medical protocols that would have led him to have the patient transported … to the hospital," instead releasing Hicks into Guzman's custody.

The suit states that because of fire rescue workers' conduct and Guzman's actions, Hicks "was delayed in receiving the proper medical treatment for his stroke, which caused him to suffer brain injury, enter into a coma, and ultimately die."

Paul Rebein, a lawyer representing Hicks' estate, declined to comment on the settlement until it is finalized. Attorneys for Guzman, Hillsborough County and the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles did not return calls.

Under Florida law, a payment greater than $100,000 would have to go to state legislators for approval. The state sets a $300,000 cap on government payouts for wrongful-death claims, and the Sheriff's Office has already paid $200,000.

Court documents give no indication that the government agencies involved plan to seek such approval, suggesting the settlement is approximately $100,000 or less.

Veteran Tampa litigator Barry Cohen, who was not involved in the Hicks case, said the state Legislature rarely approves legal settlements in excess of $300,000. As a private company, Armor Correctional — which paid Hicks' heirs $800,000 as part of a separate agreement earlier this year — was the likeliest source of cash, Cohen said.

"That's a deep pocket you can go after, and at least the family got some money," he said.

Comments
Admiral Farragut’s grit brings state softball glory

Admiral Farragut’s grit brings state softball glory

VERO BEACH — It was only natural to think of Admiral Farragut’s state title chances more in terms of the future. After all, the roster consists of zero seniors and just two juniors. The rest are sophomores, freshmen and middle-schoolers. Because of t...
Updated: 4 hours ago
The key stat for Lightning-Capitals Game 7? Score first

The key stat for Lightning-Capitals Game 7? Score first

As the Lightning and Capitals prepare for their series finale Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa, here's a by-the-numbers look at each team's Game 7 history.5-2The Lightning's record in Game 7s. It has never lost at home (3-0).+5The Lightning's...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays loss to Red Sox

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays loss to Red Sox

Marc Topkin's takeaways from Rays 4-2 loss to Red Sox on Tuesday:* The Rays record against a Red Sox team they consider a measuring stick doesn't look very good at 3-8. But, as manager Kevin Cash and several players pointed out, there is some consola...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Forecast: Caribbean storm could grow into tropical system

Forecast: Caribbean storm could grow into tropical system

A storm system in the Caribbean Sea could grow into a tropical cyclone within five days, according to the National Hurricane Center.Forecasters give the system a 50 percent chance to develop.The storm’s low-pressure center on Tuesday was nestled betw...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Academy at the Lakes wins first state softball title

Academy at the Lakes wins first state softball title

VERO BEACH —Academy at the Lakes waited two weeks to play in the Class 2A state softball tournament in hopes of winning what has been an elusive title.The Wildcats completed the first task Monday, cruising to a mercy-rule win over Fort Pierce John Ca...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

TAMPA — By now there are no more secrets. After six games over 11 days, the Lightning knows all the Capitals' habits , and the Caps know all the Lightning's.To Lightning coach Jon Cooper the outcome of tonight's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Couple whose dream boat sank finally set sail on ‘new adventure’

Couple whose dream boat sank finally set sail on ‘new adventure’

The young couple whose story traveled around the world after their dream voyage ended early at the bottom of John’s Pass is ready to try again.Three months after the Lagniappe sank, Nikki Walsh, 24, and Tanner Broadwell, 26, said they set sail Tuesda...
Updated: 7 hours ago
USPS to release scratch-and-sniff stamps; Leaks? White House has sinkhole; 2 Oregon teens take down homophobic school officials; more in U.S. news

USPS to release scratch-and-sniff stamps; Leaks? White House has sinkhole; 2 Oregon teens take down homophobic school officials; more in U.S. news

Updated: 8 hours ago
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Driver gets 28 years in prison for fleeing fatal Howard Frankland crash

Driver gets 28 years in prison for fleeing fatal Howard Frankland crash

TAMPA — After Allison Huffman slammed her car into a tow truck driver who had stopped to help a pair of stranded motorists on the Howard Frankland Bridge, she drove to a hotel and got out to look at the damage.She saw shattered glass, a bare tire rim...
Updated: 8 hours ago