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$31 Million Verdict For Brain Injured Victim Of Deputy's Bad Driving

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Seven years ago a Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy crashed his cruiser into the car of 18 year old Eric Brody. This week a jury determined that the deputy was speeding and that his negligence was the sole cause of the accident. Eric was severely brain injured and is still struggling to rehabilitate himself and set the damages at $31 Million. Florida imposes a limit or cap upon the liability of governmental entities of $100,000 per person. Lawyers for Eric will have to present a Claims Bill in the Florida Legislature.

Seven years ago a Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy crashed his cruiser into the car of 18 year old Eric Brody. This week a jury determined that the deputy was speeding and that his negligence was the sole cause of the accident. Eric was severely brain injured and is still struggling to rehabilitate himself. The jury set the damages at $31 Million. But, there is still legal work to be done. Florida imposes a limit or cap upon the liability of governmental entities of $100,000 per person. Lawyers for Eric will have to present a Claims Bill in the Florida Legislature and plead for justice a second time. Politicians will now decide whether Eric is compensated for the devastating consequences of the deputy’s carelessness.

Excerpts rom Miami Herald news article:

A jury on Thursday ordered the Broward Sheriff’s Office to pay nearly $31 million to the family of a Sunrise man who suffered severe brain damage in a traffic accident involving a deputy.

Jurors found that Deputy Chris Thieman acted negligently seven years ago when his speeding cruiser smashed into a 1982 AMC Concord driven by Eric Brody, then 18.

Brody’s brain damage will impair his ability to move and care for himself for the rest of his life, according to his family.

”This is about my son getting the therapy he needs,” said Eric Brody’s father, Chuck Brody.

“If the speed limit is 45 mph, then that’s what people should be doing, not 70 mph.”

The verdict included about $12 million for medical bills and estimated wages that Eric Brody would have earned over his lifetime, with the rest representing other damages, such as pain and suffering.

But it may be a long time before the Brody family can collect — if ever. State law limits the liability of government agencies to $100,000 per person in a case like this, unless the Legislature agrees to a larger amount.

The jury reached its verdict after a two-month trial followed by just four hours of deliberations.

Michael Piper, the attorney who represented BSO in the suit, said he was ”exceedingly surprised” by the verdict and what he called brief jury deliberations.

”There’s no question that the plaintiff turned left in front of a set of headlights he could see for quite some distance,” Piper said Thursday evening, hours after the verdict was delivered. “He still made the decision to turn left into oncoming traffic. That is a violation of the right of way.”

Piper said he has never seen a case in which a driver making a left turn was involved in a collision, and yet all of the fault was placed on the other driver.

Experts from both sides testified about how the accident happened, and some of that testimony included the speed the deputy’s car was traveling, Piper said.

”The sheriff’s office told the jury from the very beginning that the deputy was traveling in excess of the posted speed limit, but it is my position that the speed of the vehicle did not cause the accident to occur,” Piper said. “The accident occurred because the plaintiff turned left and violated the right of way of the BSO vehicle.”

The Brody family’s attorney disagreed.

”Every expert in the case, including BSO’s, said that if Deputy Thieman had been traveling 45 mph the accident wouldn’t have happened,” attorney Lance Block said.

The accident happened around 10:30 p.m. on March 3, 1998.

Brody was returning home from his part-time job at the Sawgrass Mills Sports Authority.

The Piper High School senior, traveling east on Oakland Park Boulevard, tried to turn left onto Northwest 117th Lane when he was broadsided by Thieman’s patrol car, traveling west.

The suit alleges that Thieman was driving at 70 mph and, just before the collision, veered from the far left inside line and crossed over two and a half lanes.

Thieman, the suit contends, smashed into the side of Brody’s car. It was 10:36 p.m.

At the time of the accident, Thieman was on his way to work at the BSO Weston substation, at 2525 Arvida Pkwy.

The deputy needed to report to the station in time for roll call, 10:45 p.m.

He was in intensive care for four weeks, in a coma for six months, and in a rehabilitation facility for nine months. It wasn’t until January 1999 that Brody returned to his Sunrise home.

Although he suffered permanent brain damage, Brody began home-schooling. In June, with the aid of a walker, Brody walked across the stage with the Piper High School graduating class and received his diploma.

Brody has extensive motor-skill impairment and can’t cut his own meat, button his pants, or walk. And he can’t speak clearly. Before the accident, Brody aspired to a career in radio broadcasting, his father said.

Even with all his disabilities, Brody is determined to support himself. He enrolled at Broward Community College right after graduation and is still attending.

”His perseverance is unreal,” Block said. “His determination to move forward is inspiring.”

Thieman, who has worked for the BSO since 1991, was arrested last December on eight counts of official misconduct, all felonies.

His arrest was the result of a Broward State Attorney’s Office investigation into allegations that deputies systematically reclassified crimes and fraudulently cleared cases.