ST. PETERSBURG — State Rep. Darryl Rouson is being sued by a 27-year-old woman who says she suffered "substantial'' injuries in August when Rouson plowed into her car while fiddling with his navigation system.
The suit, filed last week in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, comes as a Florida news service found that Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, has the worst driving history of any state lawmaker.
Since he was first issued a license in 1973, Rouson has racked up 43 tickets and thousands of dollars in fines, according to a Scripps Florida review of the driving histories of all 160 House and Senate members.
Last fall, Rouson paid a $166 fine for careless driving after he rear-ended a car driven by Jakela King of St. Petersburg, who had stopped for a red light on 34th Street N in St. Petersburg.
According to the accident report, Rouson was trying to operate the navigation system in his 2011 Buick at the time. The lawmaker "stated that he was distracted by that and it was his fault,'' Officer John Herrera wrote, noting that Rouson's attitude was "good.''
King's injuries appeared to be "non-incapacitating,'' the report said, but she was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Her suit seeks damages "in excess of $15,000,'' typical language for auto negligence suits, for injuries and losses including use of her 1995 Chevrolet while it was being repaired.
King did not return calls for comment Monday. Rouson said he was unaware of the suit until contacted by the Tampa Bay Times.
"I thought all of that had been settled through the insurance carrier,'' he said.
The suit is the latest in a series of recent setbacks for Rouson. In the past year, he has been hit with a $157,000 federal tax lien, ousted from a House Democratic leadership position and lost a $400,000 a year job with the Tampa law firm of Morgan & Morgan.
Rouson, 58, recently joined the St. Petersburg firm of John Bales Attorneys, specializing in the type of personal injury cases in which he now finds himself a defendant.
"I'm not proud of every mile of my journey,'' Rouson said about a driving record that includes a ticket in October for running a red light in Pinellas. In that case, he failed to pay the $264 fine, and his license was temporarily suspended before being restored in March.
A year ago, Rouson was cited for driving 91 mph in a 70 mph zone in North Florida, according to Scripps Florida. The news service analyzed lawmakers' driving histories in light of the Legislature's move this session to increase the speed limit on some Florida highways from 70 mph to 75 mph.
Rouson voted against the measure, which is headed to Gov. Rick Scott's desk.
"Speed limits are there for a reason, and I voted against raising it because I think it's a safety issue,'' he said.
In explaining, though not excusing, his driving record, Rouson noted that as a lawmaker he has put 128,000 miles on his car "and it's not even three years old yet.''
Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at [email protected]