Friday, December 15, 2017
Politics

Claims bill heads to Gov. Scott to benefit man paralyzed in crash with speeding cop

TALLAHASSEE — A bill to award $10.75 million to a Sunrise man who was paralyzed by a speeding cop 14 years ago gained House and Senate approval Thursday after an agreement was reached to eliminate all legal fees associated with the claim.

The measure now heads to Gov. Rick Scott's desk.

An internal squabble between the lawyer representing Eric Brody and his former employer had held up passage of the claims bill.

"By declining all fees it will make sure that Eric doesn't have to pay $1 million to a bunch of rich lawyers that never did anything" on the case, said Lance Block, Brody's attorney.

He said his former employer, West Palm Beach law firm of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley hired a lobbyist to try and collect part of the $10.75 million payment.

Eric's father, Chuck Brody, thanked Block for his role in getting his son justice in the long-running claims bill process.

"It should be enough to take care of him for the rest of his life," said Chuck Brody. "That's the main thing."

Under state law in effect since 1970, state and local governments are largely immune from lawsuits when they commit negligence. Even after juries rule in their favor, victims typically hire lawyers and, in many cases, lobbyists and travel to Tallahassee to seek help.

The role of lobbyists in the claims bill process has been decried by lawmakers, and threatened to kill Brody's bill.

Brody has been wheelchair-bound since 1998, after a speeding Broward County Sheriff's deputy plowed into the car he was driving, causing severe brain injury. His family has been traveling to Tallahassee for the past four years, trying to collect a $30.9 million jury award. Each year, the Legislature has ended its session without passing a claims bill for Brody.

Last year, the legislative session ended in chaos after disagreements between the House and Senate over how to pay the claim for Brody, and wrongly convicted Brevard County man named William Dillon.

Block, veteran lobbyist Brian Ballard and the Searcy law firm (where Block was a partner when he represented Brody in a jury trial) will receive no payment under the approved claims bill.

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