Claims bills move through Legislature

TALLAHASSEE — A Sunrise man left paralyzed by a speeding police officer 14 years ago and the mother of a slain Coral Gables Senior High student were among several Floridians who came closer to receiving multimillion-dollar settlements and jury awards Friday.

A subcommittee in the Florida House passed 16 claims bills, hearing the cases of people who died or were severely injured by police officers, bus drivers, public hospital workers and public employees.

Florida law requires legislators to approve judgments against government over $200,000.

Eric Brody, 32, has been forced to use a wheelchair since 1998, when a Broward County sheriff's deputy plowed into Brody's car, causing severe brain injury. His family has been going to Tallahassee for four years, trying to collect a jury award.

Each year, the Legislature has ended its session without passing the claims bill they want.

"It's been a long time in the making and I know that Mr. Brody and his family has been through a lot," said Rep. Marty Kiar, D-Davie, who voted in favor of a $10.75 million award.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said compensating Brody's family is one of his priorities this year, and took up the measure on the first day of session. The bill's lack of movement in the House prior to Friday raised concerns that it might fail yet again.

The claims bills still have to clear several hurdles. A discrepancy between the House and Senate over caps on fees for lawyers and lobbyists will have to be ironed out.

Among other claims bills lawmakers voted on was an $810,000 claim for William Dillon, a Brevard County man wrongfully jailed for 27 years.

Also among the proposals that passed: A bill providing relief for the family of Juan Carlos Rivera, a student stabbed to death at Coral Gables Senior High in 2009. The bill would award the family $1.1 million dollars.

Toluse Olorunnipa can be reached at tolorunnipa@miamiherald.com

Claims bills move through Legislature 02/17/12 [Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2012 11:21pm]

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