Son of man injured by Palm Beach County school bus calls on lawmakers to approve settlementby Dara Kam | May 1st, 2013
David Abbott is making a last-ditch effort to get lawmakers to save his father’s life.
Abbott set up easels with photographs of his father, Carl Abbott, on the fourth floor of the Capitol rotunda Wednesday afternoon as the clock winds down until the legislative session ends on Friday.
Abbott says the clock is ticking on his father as well.
Carl Abbott desperately needs the $1.9 million the Palm Beach County School Board agreed to pay him when he was run over by a school bus in 2008, Abbott’s doctor said in a letter to House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz. The money, that the Legislature has withheld for three years, would enable Abbott to get rigorous medical treatment to regain some semblance of a normal life. Without it, “his life expectancy will in all likelihood be reduced,” Dr. Pierre Deltor wrote.
The Senate is refusing to act on any claims until the system is reformed and an attempt by a House committee to revamp the system went nowhere this year.
“Reform is not my issue. Getting my dad the help he needs is the issue. It’s my only concern. Reform is going to take years. My dad doesn’t have the time to wait,” Abbott said Wednesday.
When asked about Abbott’s bill last week, Gaetz said he was unaware of the specifics of his case and called the 72-year-old North Palm Beach man’s condition a perfect example of why reforms are needed.
“That’s tragic. That makes it all the more important that we have a claims bill process that does not rely upon who the lobbyist is or what the emotion is and doesn’t make the Senate into a finder of fact,” Gaetz said.
Under the principle of “sovereign immunity” the state limits the amount people can collect from the government for wrongdoing. The only way around what is now a $200,000 cap is persuading the Legislature to lift it. Critics of the system, including Gaetz, say the system is flawed in part because powerful lobbyists have too much influence – and make too much money – in the process.
David Abbott said he was aware of Gaetz’s opposition to the claims bills process but traveled from Palm Beach County to Tallahassee anyway to make Gaetz and Weatherford aware of his father’s situation.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” he said. “My dad’s a victim here. He was a victim when he was hit by the school bus. And now he’s a victim because he can’t get the help he needs.”