Society

Florida Man Whose Wife Died In DUI Crash Ordered To Pay Driver’s $72K Court Fee

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A Florida man who lost his wife in 1998 when a drug-impaired driver slammed into her car on the Tamiami Trail has been ordered to pay the driver's $72,000 court fee.

The driver, a member of the Miccosukee Tribe, was driving an uninsured car and was drug-impaired at the time of the crash.

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Carlos Bermudez and his son Mathew, who was just an infant in the backseat of his mother’s car in 1998, were awarded $3.1 million for the “wrongful” death of 30-year-old Liliana Bermudez in 2009. The sum now totals almost $5 million with interest, but Bermudez, 46, says he and his son, now 17, haven’t collected a dime, the Miami Herald reported.

Bermudez was ordered to pay the Miccosukee Tribe $72,000 for a court fee that it incurred when it had to deposit the entire award with the Miami-Dade Circuit in 2013. An appeals court overturned the 2009 decision in July, ruling that the award should be paid by the defendants, the driver and her father who owned the car, instead of the tribe.

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Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ronald Dresnick gave back the $4.8 million to the tribe in September. Now they want Bermudez to reimburse them for this fee, too.

“Liliana was tragically taken from us 16 years ago,” Bermudez told The Herald. “We prayed for justice, but justice never came to us. Every year, on Oct. 2, we are painfully reminded of our emptiness.”

Bermudez and his son continue to struggle to collect from the 2009 judgment.

“To make our pain worse, now the Miccosukee Tribe wants to be paid $72,000,” Bermudez said. “There is no justice for Liliana’s death.”

The defendants, Billie Bert and father Jimmie Bert, say they borrowed millions from the tribe for their legal defense and say they are now broke.

According to the Herald, each of the 600 members of the Miccosukee tribe makes $164,000 a year in casino profits. The appeals court chided them for not using those funds to pay the long-awaited award.

Sources: Miami Herald, Hartford Courant

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / 911 Bail Bonds Las Vegas, Miami Herald / Emily Michot