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Pasco County settles lawsuit in fatal crash of intoxicated driver

The night Paul Suprenant slammed a speeding car between two trees on Sheffey Lane, killing himself and his passenger, both were high on cocaine.

A Florida Highway Patrol report said Suprenant, who was driving, "failed to slow or stop" at the sign. When the car crashed, Suprenant, 39, broke nearly all his bones. He was on fire, and his heart and spinal cord were severed. His left arm, with a "bad luck" tattoo on it, was found by a fence, FHP said.

Sheila Julien, 53, was still inside the vehicle. It's unknown whether she wore her seat belt because of the intensity of the fire. Several Iron Man 2 DVDs were found melted in the wreckage, remnants from moments earlier when Julien stole them from a Blockbuster in Zephyrhills.

What happened in the aftermath of the deadly crash stunned the homeowners of Sheffey Lane. Julien's estate sued Pasco County and all of the residents on the street. The suit, filed in 2010, claimed the stop sign on the street was obscured and that there were no street lights and no warning to drivers on the side of a private road.

Last week, Pasco County settled the lawsuit for $2,000.

"It would've cost Pasco County eight or nine times what we settled for to go to court," County Attorney Anthony Salzano said. "This is the lowest I have ever settled a wrongful-death suit for, by far the lowest, I think."

Most of them — 21 residents along Sheffey Lane and the intersection — have accepted proposed settlements directed to their insurance companies ranging from $500 to $2,000, Salzano said.

Janet Hickerson, Julien's mother, declined to comment when reached by a reporter. She is listed as the representative of Julien's estate in court files but previously told the Times she did not have anything to do with the lawsuit. She said Julien's daughter, Ashley Julien, was the one behind it.

Ashley Julien is serving a prison term at Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, set for release in 2014. The attorney who filed the lawsuit, Tara B. Conner of Winter Haven, did not return requests for comment.

John Sprigg lives less than a mile from the accident site on Sheffey Lane. He said he felt sorry for the tragic loss of two lives, but he didn't feel like the lawsuit had any merit.

"I heard about it on the news and then got a letter from these ambulance chasers saying we were sued," he said. "I'm sorry that two young people got killed, but I didn't tell them to steal, and I didn't tell them to drive 90 to 100 miles an hour on the road."

When he got the letter, he said he was determined to fight.

"You have to make a stand on lawyers like this and people like this," he said. "All they were doing is gold digging."

Sprigg said his insurance company was ready to go to court for him, but it eventually settled for $500.

"It was ludicrous," he said. "I drove my truck down the road and turned around and purposely drove 50 miles an hour, about half of what they did. You could see those signs with those trees. Anybody driving could have."

The FHP said Suprenant was at fault and would have been charged with seven offenses had he lived, including DUI and vehicular homicide in the death of Julien.

FHP also said Suprenant had methadone and oxycodone in his system. Julien had methamphetamine and opiates.

Sprigg said he was glad he didn't settle the case right away like some of his neighbors did.

"It's sad that our system is abused like this," he said. "We have a good system. Yeah, it has flaws, but it's a good system."

Contact Jon Silman at (727) 869-6229, Jsilman@tampabay.com or @Jonsilman1 on Twitter.

Pasco County settles lawsuit in fatal crash of intoxicated driver 09/06/13 [Last modified: Friday, September 6, 2013 7:23pm]
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