Florida Senate passes two claims bills on first day of session

Jan 10, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Current on January 10, 2012:

Senate passes two claims bills on first day of session

By Gray Rohrer

On the first day of the 2012 legislative session, the Florida Senate quickly passed two claims bills Tuesday, trying to complete unfinished business from last year.

The bills — SB 2 and SB 4 — award $1.3 million to William Dillon, who was wrongfully imprisoned 28 years for murder, and $10.75 million to Eric Brody, who was left disabled and with brain injuries when a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy vehicle crashed into his car in 1998.

Although the Senate passed both bills last year, they failed to get through the House as the end of the 2011 session fell apart. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, apologized that “politics got in the way” on the last day of session last year and made the bills a top priority for 2012.

“Hopefully, our friends in the house will take up this bill and pass it,” Haridopolos said of the Dillon bill, which he sponsored. “I think the steps we’re making today will at least show that when you make a mistake, you own up to it.”

The Brody bill passed after an amendment was added to include a settlement between the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the insurance company covering the office and the Brody family. The family will receive $10.75 million under the settlement, cannot seek additional claims and there will be no lawsuit for bad faith on the part of the insurance company. The previous version of the bill would have granted them $15.6 million. A jury initially awarded the family $30.7 million, but under the state’s laws of sovereign immunity, they could only receive $200,000.

The bills passed with overwhelming support, with only Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, a former Alachua County Sheriff, voting against both bills and Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville voting against the Brody bill, constituting the only negative votes.

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said he wouldn’t comment on member bills, but has previously stated he likes the idea of a settlement to rectify the Brody case. He said that work on the budget would take up most of the House’s time for the first half of the session, and later committees would have time to work on claims bills.

“If necessary, additional subcommittee time will also be allotted in weeks 5 or 6 to the Community & Military Affairs Subcommittee to complete its consideration of local bills, the Government Operations Subcommittee to complete its public records exemption reviews, and the Civil Justice Subcommittee for the consideration of claims bills,” Cannon said.

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