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Politics

First Claims Bills Filed in Senate

August 1, 2012 - 6:00pm

A woman profoundly injured when hit by a speeding deputy sheriff who didn't have his siren on, a woman killed by chemotherapy she shouldn't have ever had, and a man wrongfully imprisoned for seven years would all be compensated by claims bills filed Wednesday in the Senate.

One of the largest claims among the bills filed Wednesday would go to Jennifer Wohlgemuth, whose compensation bill (SB 16) would pay her $8.6 million for injuries she suffered in 2005 when she was 21 years old and was slammed into by a Pasco County deputy who was chasing a suspect. The deputy was speeding through a red light without his lights and siren on.

Wohlgemuth was in a coma for weeks and then couldn't speak for several months. She still has severe medical issues, and now has behavior and impulse control similar to a 7-year-old, according to the claim. She is supervised 24 hours a day and seven days a week, has severe memory loss and can't work or drive.

The largest claim is for $17.8 million for a Tampa chef, Ramiro Companioni, who was permanently injured in a crash with a city of Tampa water truck. He was in the prime of his career when he was injured, was a Navy reservist and "a physically fit man in the prime of his life," the claims bill says. "His earning capacity has been devastated," the bill (SB 42) says, though it also notes that Companioni has tried to support himself by operating a hot dog stand at Tampa Bay Buccaneer games.

In another claim (SB 46), Clinton Treadway would get $350,000 and college tuition and fees to compensate him for seven years he spent in prison on a forgery and theft charge for a crime that prosecutors later agreed he didn't commit. Treadway, of Polk County, was released and cleared last month after new evidence emerged in the case. He had been convicted for stealing checks, but it was later determined he was the victim of an identity theft ring.

Another claims bill (SB 28) would provide $608,554 for Charles Pandrea, for the 2002 death of his wife, Janet Pandrea. She died as a result of chemotherapy treatments she was given at a Coral Springs hospital for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, "a disease that she did not have," according to the claim.

Claims bills, filed in the Senate, go to a special master for a recommendation to the full Legislature, which then must approve them. In many cases where such bills do pass, the award comes not from the state, but from a local government or an insurance policy held by the local government. The bills are necessary because of sovereign immunity limits on how much government can pay as the result of a lawsuit. Any amount agreed to or awarded above a certain amount must be approved by the Legislature in a claims bill.

Other claims bills filed Wednesday would provide:

-- $700,000 for Mark Sawicki and his family (SB 12). He was injured when he was hit by a city of Tallahassee garbage truck while riding his bike.

-- $1.8 million for the family of DeVaughn Darling, a Florida State University football player who died during a practice session (SB 14.)

-- $650,000 for Yvonne Morton, who has had to live in a nursing home following a car accident in which she was hit by a Department of Health pharmacy inspector (SB 18).

-- $675,000 for Marcus Button and his family. Button was 16 when he was in a Pasco County car crash with a school bus that left him with severe brain injuries (SB 20).

-- $1.9 million for Carl Abbott and his family. He was hit by a Palm Beach County school bus and suffered severe brain injury and paralysis (SB 22).

-- $1 million for "L.T.," who accused Department of Children and Families officials of deliberate indifference that led to her being sexually abused as a girl. She and her brother were placed in the home of a family member who acted as a guardian, but the man in the home was a convicted sex offender. He later was arrested in an unrelated case and required to move out of the home, but later abused her anyway, while living in the neighborhood nearby. The parties settled the case for $1 million (SB 24).

-- $697,500 to the estate of Dr. Sherill Lynn Aversa, who was killed in a car accident caused when an unsecured ladder flew off of a state Department of Transportation truck on I-75 in Tampa (SB 26).

-- $100,000, for Altavious Carter, a high school freshman who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2005 when he was in a car hit by a school bus in Palm Beach County (SB 30).

-- $2.5 million from the city of Miami to the family of Kevin Colindres, an autistic 18-year-old who died after he stopped breathing while being restrained by Miami police, who also didn't administer CPR (SB 32).

-- $825,094 to Thomas and Karen Brandi to compensate them for Mr. Brandi's injuries suffered when he was broadsided by a Haines City police officer found to be mostly at fault (HB 34).

-- $1.6 million for the family of Omar Mieles, whose death was caused by a North Miami police officer (SB 36).

-- $1.1 million for the family of 29-year-old truck driver Christian Darby Stephenson, who left two children behind when he was killed when he crashed his truck because the Department of Transportation failed to fix a faulty drain that led to a hazardous road situation in Jacksonville.

-- $100,000 for Javier Soria, injured in a crash with a Palm Beach County employee.

-- $100,000 for Ronald Miller, who was injured when he was crashed into head-on by a city of Hollywood utility truck (SB 44).

-- $312,500 for Reginald Jackson, who was injured when he was shot in the neck in what was determined to be a careless and negligent act by a Lakeland police officer (SB 48). The officer was trying to arrest Jackson while he was on a pay phone, but Jackson got in a car. The officer told him to stop the car, and Jackson didn't drive anywhere, but the officer shot him.

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