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Senate backs $3.3 million for Jacksonville teen injured by tree limb

Aubrey Stewart lies in a hospital bed in critical condition.
Aubrey Stewart lies in a hospital bed in critical condition.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Florida Senate committee Thursday approved a bill that would lead to the city of Jacksonville paying $3.3 million to compensate the family of a teenager who was left paralyzed after being crushed by a large tree limb.

The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee voted 10-1 to approve the bill (SB 22), which is now ready to go to the full Senate.  The bill stems from a 2011 incident in which a tree limb fell and crushed 15-year-old Aubrey Stewart.

Bill sponsor Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said the city had received multiple complaints about the conditions of trees but did not take action before Stewart was injured.

Aubrey Stewart lies in a hospital bed in critical condition.
Aubrey Stewart lies in a hospital bed in critical condition.

The city agreed to a $3.5 million settlement with Stewart's family, but the state's sovereign-immunity laws placed a $200,000 limit on what could be paid. That led to Bradley filing what is known as a "claim" bill that would direct the city to pay the remaining $3.3 million.

"These are people of very modest means,'' Bradley said of the family. "This will not make them rich." Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, cast the only dissenting vote.

News4Jax spoke to the teen's mom about the bill Thursday afternoon.

"He still wants to play, he still wishes he could run and walk. We still trust in god that one day, even though the doctor says it won't happen, we still trust it will," said Aubrey Stewart.