Baby whose spinal cord was severed in car crash wins record damage claim from Miami-Dade
As Hurricane Matthew slammed into Florida on an October evening in 2016, a large Miami-Dade family squeezed into an Audi sedan to pick up some diapers and other baby products at a WalMart store.
At the same time, a police officer from Miami-Dade County's K-9 unit was dispatched to assist in the search for a suspect who jumped from a stolen car and ran through a residential neighborhood.
When the Audi and the police cruiser met head-on at the intersection of Northwest 57th Avenue and West Flagler Street, the traffic light was not working, according to public records. Officer Daniel Escarra was driving at 75mph before he slammed on the brakes and slammed into the Audi - a collision of such tremendous force it severed the spinal cord of a 13-month-old girl who was sitting on her mother's lap in the passenger seat Seat.
Nearly six years later, the Miami-Dade government must now pay the paraplegic girl $3.8 million in damages after Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday approved a bill that would allow the county to exempt her above a usual $200,000 immunity cap -dollars to compensate. The amount of money, which will cover past and future medical bills for Yeilyn Quiroz Otero, is the county's largest outstanding bill paid in its history. Under state law, a quarter of that money, or $1 million, goes towards attorneys' fees.
The litigation began in 2018 when Yeilyn and other family members sued the county and its police department. Her case was settled three years later through court-ordered mediation. Under the terms of the settlement, the Miami-Dade government admitted no fault but agreed to pay the statutory cap of $200,000 and agreed not to contest a $3.8 million claim bill.
Assistant District Attorney Richard Schevis made the statement at a hearing before a special counsel for the Florida Legislature. Francisco Maderal, the lead plaintiff's attorney who handled the case for his former law firm Colson Hicks, presented the evidence supporting the damages for the young girl, now six years old.
"This will make a real difference to our client," Maderal, who recently founded his own law firm, told the Miami Herald Monday. "With these funds, we hope she can avoid being placed in a public nursing home when she turns 18 and instead continue to receive home care so she can continue to live with the family who love her."
Maderal said the tragic accident has become a "challenging case".
"We never gave up," he said. "It was equal parts advocacy, politics and pleading for our client," he said. “We ended up setting a record [for a county claim bill]. This case and this client will always have a special place for me.”
The girl's litigator, Heather Hasandras, said the claims bill was "a life-changing settlement for Yeilyn."
"This will allow her to have the best care for all of her needs as a growing young child, despite the traumatic event she went through," Hasandras said.
Schevis, the Miami-Dade County attorney, said he could not comment on the outcome of the case.
Details of the crash
The damage in Yeilyn's case could conceivably have been greater, but evidence surrounding her family's Oct. 6, 2016, trip to WalMart raised questions about whether the police officer was the only possible negligent party.
The story goes on
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