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Relatives file claim in fatal police chase

The families of a woman and man killed during a police chase through rural eastern Pasco County have filed a claim for damages with Dade City. In letters dated Feb. 21, lawyer E. Summers Sheffey contends that the Dade City Police Department was negligent, or "failed to use due care by engaging in a high-speed chase which caused or contributed to a vehicular accident resulting" in the deaths of Bonnie Jean Biddle and Robert Wayne McCullough.

Sheffey filed the claim on behalf of Biddle's husband, David Biddle, and McCullough's father, William McCullough.

Bonnie Jean Biddle and Robert McCullough, both 19, were killed Feb. 5 when the Chevy Blazer they were riding in slammed into the rear of a front-end loader at Pasco Products on Burn Bridge Road.

The driver, Christopher Bryant, 21, is in fair and stable condition in Tampa General Hospital. Bryant was suspected of stealing a case of beer from a Dade City convenience store.

Municipalities by law have limited protection against lawsuits, Sheffey said. They still are subject to negligence lawsuits, but state law requires that a claim be filed first.

That, Sheffey said, allows the two parties six months to settle a claim out of court. But Sheffey said Wednesday, "I suspect that, considering all of the issues, that this will ultimately be determined by a jury."

City Manager Ben Bolan would not comment on the claim, but did say that it would be submitted to a claims adjuster. Dade City is insured by the Florida League of Cities' liability insurance program.

Dade City police, the Florida Highway Patrol and the State Attorney's office are continuing their investigation into the accident.

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