Florida county pays $4 million for girl with severed spine

May 23, 2022, 6:09 PM | Updated: May 24, 2022, 6:10 am

MIAMI (AP) — Miami-Dade County has agreed to pay a record $4 million for the care of a girl whose spinal cord was severed in a crash with a police cruiser that was speeding into an intersection with non-working stoplights as a hurricane approached nearly six years ago.

The additional $3.8 million settlement is the largest claim the county has ever paid, and far exceeds an initial $200,000 the county already paid in damages for Yeilyn Quiroz Otero, the Miami Herald reported. But it’s far short of what she’ll need.

Most of the award will satisfy her past medical and legal bills, leaving less than $1.5 million for future medical bills. Her lawyers estimated that she’ll need more than $11 million for lifetime care, and deserves another $10 million for pain and suffering. But a special master found that her mother and the driver of their car were also at fault, lowering the county’s share of the blame.

The claim bill was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last Friday.

The 13-month-old child was sitting on her mother’s lap while the family went to Walmart on Oct. 6, 2016 to pick up baby supplies as Hurricane Matthew approached Florida, the newspaper reported. At the same time, a Miami-Dade police officer was speeding at 75 mph in a 40 mph zone, pursuing a suspect who had jumped out of a stolen car and was running through a neighborhood.

The two vehicles collided in an intersection where the stoplights weren’t working due to a power failure caused by approaching Hurricane Matthew.

The family’s lawsuit against the county and police department was settled three years later. Without admitting fault, the county agreed to pay the statutory cap of $200,000 and agreed not to contest a $3.8 million claim bill, Assistant County Attorney Richard Schevis told a hearing before a special master for the Florida Legislature. The legislative claim bill allows compensation beyond the immunity cap.

“This will make a real difference for our client,” said attorney Frank Maderal. “With these funds we hope she will be able to avoid being placed in a public nursing home when she turns 18 and will instead continue to receive in-home nursing so she can keep living with her family who loves her.”

“We never gave up,” Maderal told the newspaper. “It was equal parts lawyering, politicking, and pleading for our client. In the end we set a record. This case and this client will always have a special place for me.”

Senate Special Master Eva M. Davis found the county and Officer Daniel Escarra at fault for exceeding the allowable speed under police policy as he headed to a crime scene, and failing to stop at an intersection with non-working lights.

But she also found that the driver of the Audi and the girl’s mother partly responsible for the girl’s injury. Hector Meraz-Funez did not have a valid driver’s license, was not wearing a seat belt, allowed eight people to ride without seatbelts in his compact sedan, and should have yielded to the lights and siren of a speeding police vehicle, she found. Fany Otero is to blame for not securing her daughter into a car seat, she found.

Meraz-Funez has been in a vegetative state since the crash, unable to move or communicate, Davis noted.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - In this file photo, a GameStop sign is displayed above a store in Urbandale, Iowa, on Jan. 2...

Associated Press

GameStop terminates CEO, former Amazon executive brought for modernization

Shares of GameStop are plunging before the opening bell after the company fired CEO Matthew Furlong, the former Amazon executive that was brought in two years ago to turn the struggling video game retailer around.

7 hours ago

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speaks in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, June 6, 2023. Altman on T...

Associated Press

OpenAI CEO suggests international agency like UN’s nuclear watchdog could oversee AI

Artificial intelligence poses an “existential risk” to humanity, a key innovator warned during a visit to the United Arab Emirates

1 day ago

Mt. Rainier death...

Associated Press

Missing Mount Rainier climber’s body found in crevasse; he was celebrating 80th birthday

Search crews on Mount Rainier have found the body of a man matching the description of an 80-year-old solo climber reported missing

2 days ago

Washington gun restrictions...

Associated Press

Judge rejects attempt to block new Washington state gun restrictions

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a request to block a new Washington state law banning the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles

3 days ago

FILE - A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference, April 28, 2015,...

Associated Press

Microsoft will pay $20M to settle U.S. charges of illegally collecting children’s data

Microsoft will pay a fine of $20 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it illegally collected and retained the data of children

3 days ago

FILE - OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman gestures while speaking at University College London as part of his ...

Associated Press

OpenAI boss ‘heartened’ by talks with world leaders over will to contain AI risks

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said Monday he was encouraged by a desire shown by world leaders to contain any risks posed by the artificial intelligence technology his company and others are developing.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Florida county pays $4 million for girl with severed spine