The family of a truck driver who died after his gasoline tanker jackknifed and exploded near a Jacksonville bridge would receive $1,092,040 from the state, under a Senate bill (SB 70) filed Thursday.
Christian Darby Stephenson, 29, was driving the tanker on the Hart Bridge in August 2000, when a Jeep hit a large puddle of standing water and hydroplaned.
Stephenson tried to avoid hitting the Jeep and two other vehicles involved in previous accidents. But as he tried to exit onto a nearby road, the tanker jackknifed, struck a guardrail, overturned and exploded.
The bill, filed by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said Stephenson’s family filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation, which was responsible for maintaining drains on the expressway.
A jury in 2005 found the department partly at fault, and a judgment was entered for $1,292,040. The state’s sovereign-immunity laws limited the amount that could be paid to $200,000 unless the Legislature approved a “claim” bill directing a higher amount.
Flores’ bill, if approved during the 2015 legislative session, would lead to the state paying the remaining balance of $1,092,040 to Stephenson’s widow, Amie Stephenson, and their children.