$1 million sought with claims bill filed for truck driver’s death

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A Senate claim bill filed Thursday seeks $1,092,040 for the family of a gasoline truck driver who died after his tanker jackknifed and exploded near a Jacksonville bridge. In August 2000, Christian Darby Stephenson, 29, drove the truck on the Hart Bridge Expressway when a Jeep hydroplaned after hitting a large puddle of standing water.

Stephenson swerved to avoid hitting the Jeep and two other vehicles already involved in accidents. As he attempted to exit onto a nearby road, the tanker jackknifed, run into a guardrail, overturned and exploded.

SB 70, filed by Sen. Anitere Flores, says Stephenson’s family filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Transportation, the agency responsible for maintaining drains on the expressway. In 2005, a jury found the department partially at fault, entering judgment for $1,292,040. Sovereign-immunity laws limit the amounts a state agency can pay to only $200,000, without Legislature approval of a “claim” bill for a higher amount.

If approved during the next legislative session, Flores’ bill would have the state pay the remaining $1,092,040 to Stephenson’s widow, Amie Draiemann Stephenson, and her two children.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.