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In Tallahassee, Fairfax hired RiverStone Claims Management Co. to see that the Brody settlement was forgotten. RiverStone and BSO hired nearly 20 lobbyists. They included Peter Antonacci from Gray Robinson and lawyers Hayden Dempsey and Barry Richard of Greenberg Traurig. In meetings, Chuck says the lobbyists from Greenberg Traurig and RiverStone told him that the Brodys would "never get a claims bill though the Legislature" and that the jury's verdict was "not real."

Despite RiverStone's maneuvering, House Rep. Rachel Burgin, a Republican from Tampa, sponsored a bill that would approve the Brodys' settlement. "A judge and jury decided that the sheriff's office was at fault," Burgin says.

The Brodys picked up some allies in the Legislature, including Sen. Ted Deutch, who was outraged at RiverStone's recalcitrance. "This case is almost 12 years old," says Deutch, a Democrat from Delray Beach. "There was a $3 million insurance policy in place that the citizens of Broward County paid for. Broward taxpayers paid $400,000 to obtain that insurance for BSO. The case went through the courts; a [$30.6 million] verdict was upheld on appeal; the courts did their job. This case has dragged on at significant expense to taxpayers."

RiverStone's lobbyists emphasized to lawmakers that BSO would have to pay most of the settlement, forcing the agency to cut services. So in April, Block proposed an elegant solution: The Senate claims bill could be amended to release the Broward Sheriff's Office from any responsibility should Fairfax refuse to pay the claim. The amendment would allow the Brodys to sue Fairfax directly for "bad faith" — charging that the company had deliberately withheld a fair insurance award during the seven years before the trial. The amendment would extinguish BSO's liability. The Senate added the amendment, and the bill passed resoundingly, 32-4.

Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti himself still "adamantly opposed" the compromise, even though it would have freed his department from financial responsibility for the claim. He voiced his objections in a letter to House and Senate leaders. It has never been adequately explained why BSO lined up so stubbornly with the insurer, even against what appeared to be its own best interests.

BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal said Lamberti wouldn't comment about the Brody case. BSO General Counsel Judith Levine issued a statement that claimed the sheriff wants Eric to be "provided for and financially secure" but that the bills in the Legislature would not have accomplished that. "The only outcome that would guarantee that Eric Brody would benefit and benefit immediately," Levine wrote, "would be for the parties to reach a reasonable settlement."

As the House and Senate spent weeks debating the bill, lawmakers approached the Brodys with suggestions to settle the claim for less money, first for $12 million and then for $7 million. They declined the offers. "I hate to be a pain in the butt," Chuck says, "but they literally destroyed my kid's life. He will never marry. He will never have a family. He's shot. He's done."

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."


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.

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Gail Shepherd