Florida lawmakers decided to cut the amount of money Dontrell Stephens should get from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office from $22 million to $4.5 million. Stephens was 19 years old when a PBSO deputy shot him multiple times severing his spine.
Stephens is now 26 homeless and confined to a wheelchair for life.
His attorney, Jack Scarola, argues Stephens has more than $1.4 million in unpaid medical expenses and will need at least $5 million over the course of his lifetime to cover ongoing medical costs.
“They’re saying they don’t know if I’m really going to live to see this whole year,” Stephens said when asked how long his doctors are giving him under his current medical care. “I really feel like [PBSO] thinks I’m going to die soon,” he added.
“This is a life or death situation,” said Scarola. “The tragic part of all of this is the fact that the Sheriff’s Office recognizes that and they are playing a waiting game. They don’t have to pay money to a dead man.”
Even though a jury awarded Stephens millions of dollars in 2016, Florida law states that government agencies like PBSO only have to pay out $200,000.
The amendment states that PBSO is willing to give Stephens $4.5 million total: $3 million to go to his medical expenses, and $1.5 million for attorney and lobbying fees.
The amendment also states that all state liens resulting from unpaid medical expenses would be waived. Stephens would still have to pay federal liens.