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Eric Brody’

UPDATE: Brody family lawyers, lobbyists agree to give up payment to get bill passed

Thursday, March 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Fourteen years after he was critically injured after a Broward Sheriff’s deputy crashed into him, Eric Brody and his family are in line to receive $10.75 million.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate finally settled their differences over the compensation for Brody, one of Senate President Mike Haridopolos’s top priorities, after the chambers traded the bill back-and-forth. The wheelchair-bound Brody and his parents were in the Senate gallery when the measure was unanimously approved this evening.

Attorneys and lobbyists trying to get compensation for a severely disabled Broward County man – one of Senate President Mike Haridopolos’s top priorities – have agreed to waive their fees in order to settle Eric Brody’s case.

Brody, now 32, was injured in 1988 when a speeding Broward Sheriff’s deputy crashed into his car, leaving him in a wheelchair and requiring extensive personal assistance

The chambers failed to reach agreement on the compensation for Brody last year, and the measure became part of a late-night meltdown on the final day of the session.

This year, the House and Senate have again been unable to reach consensus on how much Brody’s team should be paid. The House wanted to limit the fees to $400,000, but the Senate yesterday changed the bill (SB 4) to let the man’s family decide how much of the $10.75 million settlement should go to the team, including lawyer Lance Block, who has worked on the case for 14 years.

The fight over the fees is “what gives lawyers a bad name,” Block said.

Senate passes prez Haridopolos priority claims bills

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by Dara Kam

In the chamber’s first action on the opening day of the 2012 legislative session, the Florida Senate overwhelmingly approved two claims bills, priorities of President Mike Haridopolos that failed to pass last session.

One measure (SR 2) would pay $1.35 million to William Dillon, locked up for 27 years before DNA evidence cleared him of a Brevard County murder. Haridopolos, who sponsored the claims bill, said that the compensation would help correct the injustice done to Dillon.

“At least show when you make a mistake, you own up to it and you try to make it right. That’s what being a compassionate person is all about,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said before the 39-1 vote.

The Senate also signed off on a controversial claims bill that would pay the family of Eric Brody $10.75 million. Brody was catastrophically injured in 1998 when a Broward Sheriff’s deputy crashed into his car. Brody, then a high school senior, was left brain damaged and confined to a wheel chair.

A last-minute deal between Brody’s lawyers and insurers was finalized just before the Senate passed the bill (SR 4) with a 37-2 vote.

Lawmakers have tried for four years to get the “Brody bill” passed. Last year, the House’s failed to take it up on the final day of session, causing the session to end in chaos and Haridopolos to keep senators on hold until the wee hours of the morning before finally abandoning hope that the House would pass the measure.

The bill’s sponsor Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers, said carrying the bill for two years was a lesson in determination: the determination of Brody’s parents and advocates and of her Senate colleagues in their support.

“But most importantly, it is the determination of one individual who stood so strongly to make sure we would not leave the building until Eric was taken care of,” Benacquisto said, referring to Haridopolos.

Senate president calls Brody bill priority

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

In the final moments of the legislative session in May, House lawmakers failed to sign off on a $12 million payment to Eric Brody, a Broward man catastrophically injured after a Broward Sheriff’s Office cruiser crashed into him 13 years ago.

Again this year, Senate President Mike Haridopolos has made the payment to Brody and his family a priority. The Brody’s joined Haridopolos and bill sponsor Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, at a press conference this morning urging their colleagues to agree to the payment.

Haridopolos said the bill (SB 4) would be among the first items his chamber passes when the session begins in January.

“You can never put a price tag on human tragedy,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said.

Benacquisto’s proposal would allow Brody to get collect $15 million from the BSO and its insurance company. A House proposal, sponsored by Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, would allow Brody to get a payment of $30 million. The state would pay no money for the settlement but state law requires legislative approval before local governments can pay claims to individuals in excess of $200,000. The BSO had agreed to allow the Brody’s to pursue the claim with the insurance company earlier this year.

Grant said he hoped this year the two chambers “will put politics aside” and pass the bill.

The 1998 accident left Eric Brody, then 18 years old, with severe brain damage and requiring 24-hour care. His parents said they want the money to ensure he is taken care of after they die. Chuck Brody said he estimates the cost of care for his son to be in the middle of the two bills.

Despite – or perhaps because of – Haridopolos’ support earlier this year, the Florida House refused to agree to the payment. On the last two days of the session, Brody and his family remained in the Capitol, expecting the measure to be passed. But the prolonged session ended in the early morning hours before the measure was even taken up on the House floor.

With their wheelchair-bound son Eric, the Brody’s waited from noon until 2 a.m. the day before the session ended, Chuck Brody told reporters.

“It wasn’t heard at all. It was like he didn’t exist. It was like the bill didn’t even exist,” Brody said.

Haridopolos – silly games got in the way, ‘I’m embarassed’

Saturday, May 7th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate President Mike Haridopolos apologized to his members shortly before the 2011 legislative session fizzled to an end in the wee hours of the morning Saturday.

Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, brought the chamber back after 2 a.m. this morning to take up and pass a tax-break measure that includes a three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers after the House stripped out a tax break for at least one greyhound dog track in Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher’s district.

Instead of the usual fanfare celebrating the end of the 60-day session, the 36 senators who showed returned to the Capitol after Haridopolos sent them home two hours before were somber.

Haridopolos apologized for calling them back so quickly after he had told them the session would reconvene at 10 a.m.

The big losers of the session were two Floridians whose claims bills the House refused to pass before Speaker Dean Cannon adjourned for the year: Eric Brody, who was set to get $12 million from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for an accident more than a decade ago that left him severely disabled, and William Dillon, a wrongfully convicted Brevard County man who would have received less than $1 million for nearly 30 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. The claims bills for the two men were priorities of Haridopolos.

“They should have been served today by this legislature. Politics got in the way today and I’m embarrassed,” he said.

The Senate sine die’d at 3:35 a.m. The 2011 legislative session is officially over.

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