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Family of injured Cape police officer file lawsuit

By Staff | Feb 2, 2010

The father of Cape Coral police officer Damien Garcia has filed a lawsuit on behalf of his son following a 2009 traffic crash in which Garcia was critically injured.

Enrique Caballero filed the suit Dec. 22 against defendants Thomas and Josephine Pierce. According to the Lee County Clerk of Courts, Caballero is listed as a plaintiff along with Garcia’s daughter, Giana Garcia. The lawsuit is claiming negligence by Josephine Pierce in the auto accident.

On June 2, then 25-year-old Garcia was working as a patrol officer for the CCPD when his motorcycle collided with a sport utility vehicle, driven by Pierce, at Hancock Bridge Parkway and Cultural Park Boulevard. Garcia was trauma-alerted to Lee Memorial Hospital in critical condition.

Pierce was ticketed with violating the right of way for running a stop sign. According to the Clerk of Courts, she was found guilty Wednesday by 20th Judicial Circuit Judge Ramiro Manalich with adjudication withheld. Pierce was fined $500 and her driver’s license has been suspended for three months. She must also attend 12 hours of traffic school.

Attorney Marc Brumer of Miami, who is representing Garcia and his family, filed an amended complaint Jan. 11 that alleges Pierce was working when the crash occurred. Brumer said Pierce is a broker for RE/MAX Realty Team. In addition to seeking compensation for medical bills, loss of income and pain and suffering, RE/MAX Realty Team could be held liable, he explained.

“The Pierces aren’t wealthy,” Brumer said, adding they are investigating insurance and business policies for any possible compensation.

“We’re going to see what we can do,” he said. “It’s our goal, the family’s goal, to get (Garcia) 100 percent well … that’s going to take a lot of care and treatment.”

Josephine Pierce refused to comment Tuesday during a telephone call, stating that she was advised by her lawyers not to talk about the case.

Attorneys Odelsa Flores-Dickman of Fort Myers and Bryan Reynolds of St. Petersburg are representing the Pierces. Flores-Dickman also refused to comment on the suit Tuesday during a telephone call, and a voice message left Tuesday for Reynolds was not returned.

Lonnie Haley of RE/MAX Realty Team would not speak about the case nor the recent allegation of the company’s possible liability in the matter.

“We’ve been advised by legal counsel not to comment,” he said.

According to Brumer, the lawsuit lists the damages in excess of $15,000, the amount needed for the case to be filed in circuit court. He expects the total to be much greater though due to Garcia’s “catastrophic” injuries and the impact the traffic crash has had on his life.

Brumer said Garcia requires “24/7 attendant care” and will not likely return to a job in law enforcement.

“He’s never going to work as a cop,” he said.

Brumer explained that the situation could change depending on how Garcia recovers, but they are alleging the damages sustained by Garcia are at least $50 million. That figure is an estimate and has not been listed in the lawsuit as the monetary compensation being sought.

“He only has one time in court and we have to get a lifetime adjustment,” Brumer said. “That’s his lifetime damages.”

Caballero was appointed guardian of Garcia because Garcia has been deemed incapacitated, Brumer explained. Caballero and Lili Colon, his wife and mother of Garcia, live in Miami.

“The mom and dad and everybody have been so supportive,” he said. “To see the family, there’s just such care and love for this fine man.”

A “Special Needs Account” for Garcia and his family remains open at TIB Bank. Susi Winchell, a marketing officer with TIB Bank, could not report how much money has been collected through donations, but the account is still accepting deposits.

The account was set up in June by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 33 in response to the community’s desire to help. To donate by cash or check stop by any bank location and designate the funds for the Special Needs Account, c/o FOP Lodge 33.