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Florida Senate approves two compensation claims

TALLAHASSEE — A record-setting $30.76 million compensation claim for a Broward man paralyzed more than a decade ago was overwhelmingly approved by the Florida Senate on Friday.

The proposal by Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, would pay Eric Brody, left paralyzed and brain damaged after a Broward Sheriff's Office vehicle struck his car in 1998 when he was 18.

A jury awarded the money to Brody in 2005, but state sovereign immunity laws require a special act of the Legislature for him to collect more than the $200,000 limit on payments to those hurt by government agencies.

The $30.76 million sum is staggering compared to most compensation bills, which generally total less than $2 million.

To improve the bills chances, it includes a provision that allows the Sheriff's Office to let the Brody family pursue a bad faith claim against the agency's insurance company.

In exchange for that provision, the family will not attempt to collect the money directly from BSO.

Lobbyists for BSO have argued that the provision could set a precedent that would allow others to collect larger sums from government agencies, but it also won the bill some additional support on the Senate floor. It passed, 32-4.

"This is a very unusual case," said Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek. "It won't cost the taxpayers anything."

The Senate also voted, 30-6, to pay $1.8 million to the family of slain BSO Deputy Todd Fatta, killed in 2004 serving a search warrant.

BSO agreed to settle the case last year, days before a wrongful death case was set to go to trial. As part of the settlement, BSO also has agreed not to oppose the Fatta compensation bill, and the bill cleared the Senate with little debate.

Both bills go to the House.

Breanne Gilpatrick can be reached at bgilpatrick@miamiherald.com.

Florida Senate approves two compensation claims 04/24/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 24, 2009 4:19pm]

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