Manatee County Government Administrative Center Commission Chambers, First Floor 9:00 a.m. - July 28, 2015
REVISED July 28, 2015 - Regular Meeting
Agenda Item #10

Belinda K. Jarema v. Manatee County, Case No. 2014-CA-1747; recommended settlement


Contact and/or Presenter Information

Christopher M. De Carlo, Assistant County Attorney

Trudy K. Morris, Legal Assistant, Ext. 3762

Action Requested
Motion to approve a settlement in the matter of Belinda Jarema v. Manatee County in accordance with the mediated settlement agreement.

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

Background Discussion

Facts of the Case:  On March 20, 2012, Belinda K. Jarema was playing with her then four year old grandson at the G.T. Bray park playground.  She walked from the area of the playground near the jungle gym to the swings to pick up a water bottle she had left there.  While walking, her left foot became entangled in a loop of rope sticking up out of the ground next to a tree.  She fell forward landing on her left forearm and left shoulder.  Plaintiff immediately suffered injuries and bruising to her left forearm, elbow, and triceps following the incident.  Thereafter, Mrs. Jarema developed severe pain in her left shoulder and neck, both of which ultimately required surgery. 

Discovery conducted in the case revealed that approximately 5-12 years before Ms. Jarema's fall, the landscaping company which installed trees at the park used the ropes to lower the trees into the ground.  Unfortunately, the ropes were never removed after the trees were planted despite regular park inspections. Plaintiff's counsel deposed employees of Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department.  Manatee County's employees admitted under oath that they were aware or should have been aware of the ropes via park inspections and that the ropes should have been cut before this incident, but this was not done.  The ropes were removed after this incident.

The County Attorney's Office conducted an investigation in which our office interviewed two witnesses with whom Ms. Jarema spoke immediately following the fall who would have been called as witnesses at trial to corroborate her version of events from the fall and visible injuries from this incident.

Plaintiff's Damages and Medical Expenses:  Ms. Jarema underwent surgeries to both her left shoulder and cervical spine which were directly related to this fall per her physicians.   For her left shoulder injury, Ms. Jarema underwent a left shoulder partial lateral clavicle excision, surgical debridement of a left shoulder labal tear, and left shoulder acromioplasty/subacromial decompression/bursectomy.  For her neck, Ms. Jarema underwent an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion at C 5/6 with instrumentation.  She required post-surgical physical therapy for her neck for 6-12 weeks.  Additionally, she will require annual follow-ups to monitor the stability of the hardware in her neck.  Plaintiff's medical bills for her treatments and surgeries following her fall total $111,318.25.  Medicare has paid $24,548.49 and there is a balance outstanding of $51,019.57.  Additionally, Plaintiff would be entitled to claim non-economic damages for pain and suffering due to her injuries, the result of which is speculative and hard to predict.

Cost of Litigation:  Given the complex medical nature of Plaintiff's claimed injuries, the County Attorney's Office estimates the likely cost of continued/future litigation to be $25,000-$28,000 to conduct additional discovery, retain experts, and try the case.

Settlement:  Plaintiff's original demand was for $200,000.00.  The County Attorney's Office recently participated in mediation with counsel for the Plaintiff and the following was agreed to by the parties:

  • Manatee County shall pay the Plaintiff the sum of $100,000.00 in full settlement of Plaintiff's cause of action.
  • Payment of said sum is subject to approval by the Manatee County Board of Commissioners.
  • Plaintiff shall dismiss with prejudice any pending actions and execute and deliver to Manatee County a General Release.
  • Plaintiff shall satisfy from the settlement proceeds any and all outstanding liens of any kind, including, but not limited to, Medicare and Medicaid, and indemnify Manatee County regarding payment of the liens.
  • Plaintiff shall pay for all outstanding present and future health care costs.
  • Each side shall pay their own costs and attorney's fees.

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

  • The County Attorney's Office's investigation into the cause of this accident reveals that Manatee County would have a high probability of being held liable for the injuries to the Plaintiff.
  • Plaintiff has been treated for injuries sustained in the accident and underwent two significant surgical procedures due to the accident resulting in approximately $111,381.25 in medical costs.
  • Manatee County would incur significant additional expenses in conducting additional discovery, compulsory medical examinations and retention of other expert witnesses to prepare the case for trial.
  • This settlement is reasonable in light of the likely jury verdict due to the amount of medical expenses, injuries incurred as a result of this accident, and costs of litigation.

County Attorney Review
Other (Requires explanation in field below)

Explanation of Other
This is a County Attorney item.

Reviewing Attorney

Instructions to Board Records

Please return a stamped copy of this agenda memorandum to Trudy Morris (tmailto:trudy.morris@mymanatee.org), Legal Assistant to Christopher M. De Carlo, Assistant County Attorney.


Cost and Funds Source Account Number and Name
Self insurance liability settlement, fund 5050001500, object code 549102

Amount and Frequency of Recurring Costs
$100,000.00 - one time payment

Attachment:  Mediated Settlement Agrmt - executed.pdf
Attachment:  HIPAA authorization form mediation Jarema signed.pdf