Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State Supreme Court orders more hearings on motorcyclist's $18M claim against Tampa

TAMPA — A court case that grew out of a catastrophic crash 14 years ago — and that ultimately could be the biggest civil jury award ever against the city of Tampa — will go on even longer, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Justices sent the case back to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, where the city will make more arguments for a new trial.

The case dates to Nov. 26, 1996, the day that Ramiro G. Companioni Jr.'s motorcycle slammed into a city water department truck on Hillsborough Avenue near 50th Street.

He argued the truck caused the crash by veering across traffic and sideswiping him.

Companioni, once a successful chef, learned to walk again after nearly having his legs cut off in the crash. His right knee was fused and he could not bend at the waist. He later sold hot dogs outside Tampa Bay Buccaneers games and at car dealerships.

He since has taken up construction work where he can get it, Companioni said. But multiple surgeries have severely limited his options, and he said he can't drive, use a wheelchair, sit in typical chairs or walk normally.

"It gets hard to hold down a job when you don't know where you're going to be next week or how long its going to take to recover," he said.

In its appeal, the city had argued it deserved another trial because of misconduct by Companioni's attorney. The city objected to his conduct at the time, but didn't seek a mistrial.

City attorneys requested a mistrial only after the $18 million judgment was returned against the city. But the trial judge told them they should have asked for a mistrial before the verdict.

An appellate court ruled the trial judge used the wrong standard, and ordered a new trial.

But state Supreme Court justices agreed in the ruling Thursday with the trial judge — that the city should have asked earlier.

Tampa City Attorney Chip Fletcher said he was disappointed by the ruling, but that the city would continue appeals.

The city will still argue that misconduct by the plaintiff's attorney denied the city a fair trial. And the city will also argue that the judgment was excessive.

Companioni said he's not surprised. "They are going to say that $18 million is too heavy a burden on taxpayers, but what about the attorney fees they keep accumulating?" Companioni asked.

State Supreme Court orders more hearings on motorcyclist's $18M claim against Tampa 12/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 16, 2010 11:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hurricane Maria's winds hit 175 mph as it aims at Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands


    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hurricane Maria barreled toward Puerto Rico on Tuesday night after wreaking widespread devastation on Dominica and leaving the small Caribbean island virtually incommunicado. …

    A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. [Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte | Associated Press]
  2. Hillsborough School Board approves 2017-18 budget


    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday approved a budget of $2.83 billion for the 2017-18 school year.

    Photo illustration. []
  3. All Eyes photo gallery: 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 79, collapses buildings in Mexico


    A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 79 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped. The quake came less than two weeks after another quake left 90 dead in the country's south, and it …

    Rescuers work on a collapsed building on Amsterdam Avenue in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck, Sept. 19, 2017. Dozens have been reported killed across the country, including 42 in the state of Morelos, close to the epicenter of the quake, and at least 20 buildings in Mexico City have collapsed. (Adriana Zehbrauskas/The New York Times) XNYT169
  4. Rays video tribute to ex-manager Joe Maddon upon return with Cubs


    Here is the Rays video tribute to former manager Joe Maddon, who returned to the Trop for the first time on Tuesday with his Cubs team:

  5. After Irma disruption, Miami eager to face Toledo


    LAKE BUENA VISTA — Like thousands of other evacuees, Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz headed north to escape Hurricane Irma with his family, two suitcases and the anxiety of not knowing what would happen to everything he left behind.

    Miami coach Mark Richt watches during a victory over B-CU in the Sept. 2 opener. The Hurricanes haven’t played since.