Florida House passes Eric Brody, other high-profile claims bills

Mar 6, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Current on March 5, 2012:

House passes Brody, other high-profile claims bills

By Gray Rohrer

Eric Brody, who was 18 when a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy crashed into his vehicle in 1998 and severely injured him, is another step closer to receiving $10.75 million in compensation after his claims bill cleared the House on Monday by a 107-7 vote.

The measure, SB 4, must go back to the Senate for a final vote, even though the Senate already has passed the bill, because the House amended the bill to cap attorney’s fees in the settlement at $400,000.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, highlighted the bill as a top priority, passing it out of the Senate on the first day of this year’s legislative session. He said he’s receptive to the House version, pending a review of the changes.

“Just because I support a measure, doesn’t mean it has to be my way only. So I’m going to be very open to what the House has brought up,” Haridopolos said.

If ultimately passed and signed into law by Scott, it represents something of a redemption for Haridopolos, who failed to get claims bills for Brody and William Dillon through last year when they fell victim to political maneuvering between the House and the Senate. Last week, Scott signed into law  the $1.3 million claims bill for Dillon, who was wrongfully incarcerated for murder for 27 years.

The House passed two other headline-grabbing claims bills Monday.

HB 7131, ordering the city of Tallahassee to pay the family of Rachel Hoffman $2.4 million, passed on a 99-13 vote. Hoffman was turned into a confidential informant by the Tallahassee Police Department after she was arrested on a drug possession charge in 2008. She was slain during a sting operation after proper procedures were not followed.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, spoke against the bill, criticizing the process that caps jury awards against government entities at $200,000 because of their sovereign immunity unless the Legislature passes claims bill waiving. He also criticized Hoffman’s “lifestyle”.

“She was, tragically, engaged in drug culture and drug lifestyle,” Gaetz said.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Patrick Julien, D-North Miami Beach, refuted what he considered Gaetz’ unctuous assessment, noting Hoffman was a college graduate and was manipulated into making high-risk drug buys even though she was a relatively novice drug user.

Aaron Edwards, who was born with severe brain injuries at Lee Memorial Hospital in 1997 as the result of malpractice at the time of birth, will receive $15 million under HB 965, which passed on a 97-14 vote. Advocates on behalf of Edwards have run negative ads against House Rules Chair Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, who was perceived as delaying votes on the bill.

Both the Hoffman and Edwards bills are up for consideration in the Senate on Wednesday.

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