Manatee County Government Administrative Center Commission Chambers, First Floor 9:00 a.m. - March 24, 2015
March 24, 2015 - Regular Meeting
Agenda Item #15

Proposed Settlement Offer re: Harry Bennett v. Manatee County; Case No. 2014-CA-1845

Briefing Provided Upon Request

Contact and/or Presenter Information
James A. Minix, Chief Assistant County Attorney
Trudy Morris, Legal Assistant, ext. 3750

Action Requested
Motion to approve Manatee County's Settlement Offer to Plaintiff in the matter of  Harry Bennett v. Manatee County.

Enabling/Regulating Authority
Sections 125.01 and 768.28, Florida Statutes.

Background Discussion

Facts of the Case: On November 5, 2012, Harry Bennett (DOB: 9/4/1947) called 911 for assistance due to an asthma attack. The Manatee County paramedics arrived and determined he was in severe respiratory distress requiring immediate transport to the hospital for treatment. He was placed on a stretcher and loaded into the back of the ambulance. While driving the ambulance to Manatee Memorial Hospital, the Manatee County EMT fell asleep at the wheel. He drove out of the travel lane and hit a pot hole causing the stretcher and Mr. Bennett to fly up in the air. The paramedic in the back of the ambulance tending to Mr. Bennett was also thrown from his seat into the wheel well. The driver steered the ambulance to the side of the road and stopped. After re-securing the patient in the back of the ambulance, and observing that there was no damage to the ambulance, they continued to transport Mr. Bennett to Manatee Memorial Hospital Emergency Room.


HIPAA precludes an extended discussion of medical treatment.  The injuries and treatment of the Plaintiff support the recommended settlement offer. 


Plaintiff’s damages: Mr. Bennett states his medical expenses total $43,611.52. His estimated future medical expenses are $37,300 per year. Lost Wage Claim: At the time of this accident, Mr. Bennett was employed as a Director of Environmental Services for Signature Healthcare earning $16.00/hr. He was cleared to return to sedentary office work on December 3, 2012, so he lost only four days of work.


Liability: The County Attorney's Office has taken the position that our Manatee County ambulance driver/EMT was outside the course and scope of his duties when he fell asleep while driving the ambulance and ran off the roadway. Post-accident, our EMT employee admitted: (1) he had not informed his supervisor that he was taking a prescription medication with a known side effect of drowsiness; and (2) he continued to drive the ambulance after he became aware that he was drowsy and at risk of falling asleep. Although we believe that our ambulance driver is 100% responsible for this accident, the jury may find that Manatee County is also liable for the negligent acts of its employee.


Settlement: Plaintiff’s initial demand was for $300,000. The County Attorney's Office recommends that we serve on the Plaintiff a Proposal for Settlement (attached hereto) in the amount of $43,611.52 representing the amount due to medical providers for his alleged injuries. This good faith amount will either settle this claim or put the County in a position to possibly recover its attorney's fees and costs, depending upon the Plaintiff's recovery at trial.


   The proposal for settlement has the following terms:

  • Manatee County shall pay Plaintiff the sum of $43,611.52 in full settlement of Plaintiff's cause of action.
  • Plaintiff shall dismiss with prejudice any pending actions and execute and deliver to the County a General Release.
  • Plaintiff will pay for all outstanding present and future health care costs.
  • Each side shall pay their own attorney fees and costs.

   The County Attorney's Office believes that this settlement proposal is in the best interests of the County and in an attempt to conclude this litigation recommends its approval for the following reasons: 

  • The County Attorney Office's investigation into the cause of this accident revealed that Manatee County may be  held liable for the injuries to the Plaintiff, notwithstanding that the driver was operating in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety or property.
  • The Plaintiff has been treated for injuries sustained in the accident resulting in approximately $43,611.52 in medical costs. The Plaintiff was assigned an 18% whole body permanent impairment rating due to the fracture in his cervical spine and his pelvis. The Plaintiff still complains of significant radiating pain in his neck and back.


County Attorney Review
Other (Requires explanation in field below)

Explanation of Other
See attached Proposal for Settlement.

Reviewing Attorney

Instructions to Board Records

Please return a fully executed electronic copy of this agenda memo to: trudy.morris@mymanatee.org



Cost and Funds Source Account Number and Name
$43,611.52 one-time payment; County self-insurance fund.

Amount and Frequency of Recurring Costs

Attachment:  Proposal for Settlement.pdf