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Eric Brody, left brain-damaged in accident, set to get $10.75 million

January 10, 2012

TALLAHASSEE — After nearly 14 years of fighting, 32-year-old Eric Brody and his family may finally receive millions of dollars to compensate him for a 1998 accident that left him brain-damaged and largely confined to a wheelchair.

Brody's family has reached a settlement with the Broward Sheriff's Office and its former insurer to pay $10.75 million to Brody for his life care. However, the Florida Legislature still must sign off on the deal, and the Senate began that process Tuesday with a 37-2 vote.

Brody, then a college-bound high-school student, was injured when a Broward deputy speeding on his way to work rammed into his car. A jury subsequently said that the Sheriff's Office should pay Brody $30.7 million.

Florida law, however, protects government agencies from paying damages in excess of $200,000. To get more than that, a victim needs the Legislature to pass what's called a claims bill ordering either the state or the local government to pay up.

In the Brody case, that has resulted in a years-long battle with lawmakers, some of whom refuse to pass claims bills on principle. Last year, the Senate passed the bill, but it died in a late night stand-off with the House, which refused to take it up.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, had vowed to make SB 4 — sponsored by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington — the first order of business in this year's Senate, along with a $1.35 million claims bill for a Brevard man who served 27 years for a murder he did not commit. Both passed Tuesday afternoon.

"From the start, this issue, this matter was about the determination of a mother and a father to take care of their child," Benacquisto said. Her original bill called for $15.5 million.

The settlement, which would be paid by the insurance company, would cover Brody's medical care, living expenses, vocational training, and potentially some recreational activities.

Brody, who has attended every committee meeting and floor vote on his bill over the past few years, was not in Tallahassee Monday. He is bedridden, recovering from a broken hip.

Both Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti and representatives of Ranger Insurance Co. praised the deal.

"I am glad that rational minds prevailed for the sake of Eric Brody and his future well-being," Lamberti said.

The bill's future in the House is still slightly unclear.

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, has said that the issue should be addressed later in the session, after other work is completed.

Jason Unger, a lawyer for the insurance company, said that the company is confident that the deal will win final approval by the House.

"Speaker Cannon has pressed for settlement, and that has been accomplished," he said.


Sheldon J. Schlesinger, P.A. represents clients throughout the state of Florida including the cities of Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Carol City, Cooper City, Coral Gables, Coral Springs, Davie, Deerfield Beach, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah, Hollywood, Jupiter, Lake Worth, Miramar, Miami, Oakland Park, Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Springs, Pompano Beach, and Rivera Beach

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