County Commission approves $80,000 settlement with Pasco County woman injured by Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputy in Pinellas County traffic crash

County attorney recommends action, based on evidence that deputy was at fault

 At the recommendation of Sarasota County Attorney Frederick “Rick” Elbrecht, the County Commission unanimously has approved an $80,000 settlement with a Pasco County woman who was injured in a traffic accident caused by a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

A memo that Elbrecht provided to the commissioners in advance of their regular meeting on May 24 explained that Kimberly Sue Ready, who is 57, had filed a complaint against the Sheriff’s Office in the aftermath of the Aug. 7, 2018 incident in Pinellas County. She was traveling southbound on Fifth Street North in St. Petersburg, near the intersection of 93rd Avenue North, the memo said, when Deputy Jason A. Smith, who was headed westbound, struck her vehicle with his 2017 Dodge Ram pickup truck. Smith was working when the incident occurred, the memo added.

In her July 2021 complaint filed in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court, in Pinellas County, Ready claimed that she “suffered bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment, and aggravation of a previously existing condition. The losses are either permanent or continuing,” the complaint continued.

She demanded a jury trial, the complaint said.

Officially, Ready filed the complaint against Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman. Her attorney was Ronald Bone of Seminole, the Sixth Circuit Court records noted.

A later filing in the case said that Ready was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Dated March 3 of this year, it sought to substitute Stephen L. Meininger, the trustee of Ready’s estate, as the plaintiff. That document explained that, because of her bankruptcy petition in federal court, the claim against the Sheriff’s Office was being administered by Meininger. Circuit Judge Keith Meyer, who was presiding over the case, granted the change in plaintiff in a March 28 order.

In her petition for bankruptcy, filed on Nov. 30, 2022 in the Bankruptcy Court of the Middle District of Florida, in Tampa, Ready marked a line that indicated she owed up to 49 creditors. Details within the document said her assets added up to $274,412.89, while her total liabilities were $305,219.11. Among those, she reported that she owed $87,651 in student loans.

In his memo to the county commissioners, Elbrecht wrote, “In reviewing the salient facts of the accident, it seems evident that the Sheriff’s employee had failed to stop at a marked stop sign, thereby causing the accident. Ultimately,” Elbrecht continued, “the issue of liability is relatively clear in this matter.”

The Sarasota News Leader was unable to access a copy of the accident report prior to the deadline for this issue.

Elbrecht further pointed out that Ready’s injuries resulted in her suffering lower back pain, with “discomfort in the lumbar spine [that radiated] to her left anterior thigh. In addition,” he wrote, she “alleged suffering pain in the right and left hand [and] pain in the left knee …”

Ready’s medical providers charged her more than $150,000 for the treatment of the injuries, Elbrecht noted. Her attorney, Bone, “originally demanded the statutory maximum amount of [$200,000],” he added.

The Florida Legislature set that figure as the maximum financial judgment involving a local government. Only through final passage of a bill in the Legislature, and then the governor’s signing of the bill, can the amount be higher.

Elbrecht explained in his memo that the demand for $200,000
“was based exclusively upon the extent of injuries” that Ready incurred as a result of the accident. In a review of her medical records, he continued, no evidence was found that she had suffered any previous injuries to her spine. Thus, he wrote, the accident “was the sole cause of her injuries.”

After consulting with Sheriff Hoffman, the memo said, the Office of the County Attorney and the county’s Risk Management team “negotiated the settlement of all claims related to the accident” for $80,000.

The memo added, “Based on the severity of the injuries [that Ready incurred], we believe it is in the County’s best interest to settle for the negotiated amount.”

No commissioner offered a comment after Elbrecht provided highlights of the memo to them during their May 24 meeting.

Commissioner Joe Neunder made the motion to approve the settlement, and Commissioner Michael Moran seconded it.