MIAMI LAKES, FLA. (WSVN) - Victims and family members impacted by gun violence came together to speak out against bills they believe will weaken Florida’s public safety.
Crime victim advocates joined more than a dozen South Floridians who have been victims of crime and violence in Miami Lakes on Thursday.
“When victims come to me and they ask me for help in the civil justice system, not one has ever mentioned money, not one has ever mentioned getting a huge jury verdict. They come to me and say, ‘I want to make change,'” said a crime victim advocate.
At issue is a new set of state bills aimed at tort reform. Those who took part in the news conference gathered outside the office of the sponsor of one of the bills, Florida State Rep. Tom Fabricio, to make their voices heard.
Gun violence victims who took part in the news conference said that sometimes a civil suit is the only way they can move forward after they’ve been victimized.
“If an arsonist and a perpetrator comes and sets fire to a building, obviously he was the one who set fire to the building, but if the building is not prepared — it does not have the sprinkler system, the security, the safety — they also have some negligence, then,” said a speaker at the press conference, “and the right that we have as citizens to challenge that in civil court is a right that we have.”
The families believe that passing the bill sponsored by Fabricio will result in more crime, as businesses will have less incentive to invest in security. The argue it would deny victims funds that would help them move forward after a crime, essentially re-victimizing them again.
The legislation would cap the amount insurance companies pay out in damages and limit what a civil jury could hear about an injured person’s medical costs, among other things.
“Victims bear the cost whenever a crime is committed against them,” said the crime victim advocate.
Victims said these laws are important in keeping businesses vigilant.
Romania Dukes with Mothers Fighting for Justice said adequate security was lacking at a housing complex when she lost her son.
“My son DeMicheal Dukes was shot and killed by a stray bullet in a housing project just visiting a family member,” she said. “The cameras weren’t even working at the time when my son got killed.”
Edwin Pata said his brother Bryan was shot and killed at an apartment complex in 2006. He described what a financial settlement did for his family.
“What it did for us, it actually – Bryan left something, ’cause he played football. This crazy violent football game that we do play, he played it to help his family and his mom,” he said, “and so, what that lawsuit did was leave something for my mom.”
The regular Florida legislative session begins next week.
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