Shafted

A cop left Eric Brody brain damaged 11 years ago. His family still hasn't received a penny of compensation.

The day the bill was set to go before the House, RiverStone announced in a news conference that it had hired former House speaker and former University of Florida law professor Jon Mills to examine the bad-faith amendment. Mills stated in a letter that, in his opinion, the amended claims bill might be unconstitutional.

Block calls Mill's opinion "laughable."

"I am sure this opinion cost a lot of money," Block says, "but it is full of holes and is either a disingenuous presentation or it demonstrates a basic lack of understanding of bad-faith and sovereign-immunity law."

RiverStone's maneuverers were enough to create uncertainty in the House. As time ran out, Burgin had no choice but to table her bill.

The Brodys will have to begin the expensive, time-consuming claims process from scratch in the Legislature's 2010 session. The 2010 bill has already been filed by Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Fasano.

Chuck Brody sounds fed up with the wrangling and posturing. "The insurance company just doesn't want to pay the money!" he says. "They and BSO have lied through their teeth from the beginning. My big concern now, when all the bills are paid, is: What's left for him? What happens to Eric when his mother and I are gone?

"What are you gonna do? He's getting shafted. They don't care. I hate to say it. Nobody seems to give a damn."

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Eric Brody gets up about 5 or 5:30 every morning now, and his father always wakes up when he hears him. Eric can't help but make noise: As he moves around his bedroom, straightening the blue-checked bedspread, turning on the TV, shuffling through his stacks of CDs — Alice in Chains, Korn, Incubus, Marilyn Manson — he's likely to lurch against the walls or fall down entirely.

For a few hours before dawn, he'll play solitaire on the family's old Gateway computer in the guest room: He has a hundred games. He can explain how he plays those games to anybody who has the patience to listen. It takes Eric many seconds of hard work to form each word of the idea he's trying to convey. Years of speech therapy have taught him to force his tongue into complicated positions to approximate vowels and consonants, but they're still only approximations. You have to struggle equally hard to concentrate on what he's saying, to shuffle through possible meanings. When he speaks, Eric looks deeply into his listener's eyes, as if willing comprehension and connection.

Asked about his solitaire strategy, he says: "You have to pay attention to the numbers. You also have to discern the best way to eliminate the most amount of cards." But it sounds like this: "Oo... hawn... oo... hnay [long pause] nnun... n... oo... n... nnuner." It takes him a full minute to articulate the sentence. Chances are, he'll be asked to repeat it several times. Maybe the person he's speaking to will get it eventually. Or maybe not.

Traces of the boy he was, the man he ought to have become, are scattered around Eric's bedroom. There's the stuffed orange bear holding his high school diploma. The shaving cream, soap, comb, and deodorant on the dresser. The Weezer and Linkin Park concert stickers. But those stickers will never be affixed to any bumper. They're glued to the sides of a wheelchair.

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