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SJC Commissioners, Sheriff’s Office reach settlement agreement in 2019 motorcycle accident

ST. JOHNS, Fla. — St. Johns County commissioners agreed to proceed with a settlement with a woman who was involved in a motorcycle accident with one of its deputies in 2019.

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Documents reveal that the deputy was attempting a U-turn when his vehicle was hit by a woman and her boyfriend.

“We’ve never had a case like this,” said St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Attorney Matthew Cline.

Julia Perez was seriously injured in a double motorcycle accident with St. Johns County deputy Brandon Hetlzer in April 2019 along State Road 16.

During a county commission meeting Tuesday, the attorney for the sheriff’s office, Cline, discussed the potential settlement money she could receive from the county.

“To settle this matter for 6.5 million dollars, 6.3 million of which come from you all. 200,000 dollars would come from the insurance,” said Cline.

According to FHP, a St. Johns County deputy attempted a U-turn in front of Perez and her boyfriend, Tom Eiland, who were riding separate motorcycles.

During an interview in 2019 with Action News Jax Eiland explained what happened next.

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“I went over the hood, and she took the full impact of the car,” said Eiland.

Although St. Johns County commissioners did approve the settlement agreement.

Perez still has one final hurdle: Senate Bill 10, which was filed in the state senate in August.

This claims bill would allow Perez to collect the settlement from St. Johns County.

State legislators must vote and approve the bill before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis can sign it.

The bill states that Deputy Hetlzer did not activate his siren or emergency lights before the collision while responding to a service call he had overheard.

“The 6.5 creates a ceiling. It’s a cap so even if we went to the claims bill process and throughout that process, the legislature and the governor decided that 6.5 wasn’t enough and maybe that number should be closer to 15. The plaintiff has agreed that they would cap their take at 6.5,” said Cline.

Action News Jax contacted the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office for comment on the matter. The Sheriff’s Office declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

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