Fourteen years ago, a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy plowed into the passenger side of Florida 17-year-old Eric Brody’s car. As a result, Eric Brody was left permanently disabled. He now requires a wheelchair to move around, his speech is slurred, and his mental capacities are severely diminished. His motor control is significantly reduced as well.
However, despite $30 million being awarded by a jury, the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s insurer claimed that they only owed $200,000 due to sovereign immunity. The Brodys have been fighting that claim using a variety of legal and political channels for the past fourteen years, all the while going deeper and deeper into debt to pay for their son’s medical expenses.
All that effort has finally paid off. On Thursday, April 19, 2012, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an executive claims bill awarding Eric Brody and his family $10.75 million in compensatory damages.
About Sovereign Immunity and Claims Bills
The reason that Brody’s tragic case has taken so long is due, in part, to the sovereign immunity laws in the state of Florida. These laws state that a public agency can’t be sued for more than $200,000 without the passage of a claims bill by the Florida legislature.
The Relief of Eric Brody Claims Bill
Since the conclusion of the trial and subsequent appeals by the BSO in 2009, the claims bill has been tied up in the Florida state legislature. Due to concerns of bankrupting the sheriff’s office, legislators amended the claims bill to state that the insurance provider would be liable for all the damages rather than the BSO.
Fairfax Insurance, the BSO’s insurance provider, has fought the Relief of Eric Brody Claims Bill in the legislature for the past three years with an army of lobbyists and “legal experts” who claimed that the amended claims bill was unconstitutional. The bill finally made it to Governor Scott’s desk last week.
The family is grateful to all their supporters and grateful that their legal issues are finally over. For his part, Scott expressed commitment to “scrutiny” to maintain the “proper balance” between the risks of heightened insurance costs, sovereign immunity laws and the need to compensate victims.