A woman profoundly injured when hit by a speeding deputy sheriff who didn't have his siren on, a woman killed by chemotherapy she shouldn't have ever had, and a man wrongfully imprisoned for 7 years would all be compensated by claims bills filed Wednesday in the Senate.
One of the largest claims among the bills filed Wednesday would go to Jennifer Wohlgemuth, whose compensation bill (SB 16) would pay her $8.6 million for injuries she suffered in 2005 when she was 21-years-old and was slammed into by a Pasco County deputy who was chasing a suspect. The deputy was speeding through a red light without his lights and siren on.
The bill states in part:
"A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Jennifer Wohlgemuth by the 3 Pasco County Sheriff’s Office; providing for an 4 appropriation to compensate Jennifer Wohlgemuth, whose 5 injuries were due to the negligence of an employee of 6 the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office; providing a 7 limitation on the payment of fees and costs; providing 8 an effective date.
"WHEREAS, Jennifer was unable to return home until August 43 2005. As a result of the accident, she currently suffers from 44 severe memory loss, partial loss of vision, lack of balance, 45 urinary problems, anxiety, depression, dysarthric speech, acne, 46 and weight fluctuations. Due to damage to her frontal lobe, 47 Jennifer’s behavior and impulse control are similar to those of 48 a 7-year-old child. She requires supervision 24 hours a day, 7 49 days a week. Because of her significant memory impairment and 50 lack of judgment, Jennifer is unable to drive, work at a job, or 51 live independently..."
Claims bills, filed in the Senate, go to a special master for a recommendation to the full Legislature, which then must approve them. In many cases where such bills do pass, the award comes not from the state, but from a local government or an insurance policy held by the local government. The bills are necessary because of sovereign immunity limits on how much government can pay as the result of a lawsuit. Any amount agreed to or awarded above a certain amount must be approved by the Legislature in a claims bill.