Tampa man sued city, won, but hasn't been paid

Posted at 6:58 PM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 18:58:29-05

It was 19 years ago. In November of 1996, Ramiro Companino was riding his motorcycle down Hillsborough Avenue when three city of Tampa water trucks pulled in front of him, causing his bike to slam into one of the trucks. He said he was dragged about 65 feet while trapped under the truck.

He said he fell into a two-week coma and suffered many injuries. He still uses a cane. 

"Multiple fractured hip, I'm missing part of my large intestine, my spleen, two thirds of my liver, dislocated shoulder and a compound fractured elbow," he said. "My quality of life has been thrown out the window."

Ramiro is a Navy veteran. He says he was an award-winning chef at the top of his career and was very athletic.

"I won awards in swimming, I was a martial artist, amateur boxer... You name it, I did it. I can't do any of that anymore," said Companino.

Ramiro sued the city of Tampa and won. A jury awarded him just under $18 million. At the time, it was the largest personal injury verdict against the city of Tampa.

That was in 2004. In 2016, Ramiro said he's still waiting for his money.

"There's no justice, because I should've been settled," he said. "I maybe could've had a decent life or some kind of a fair life 10-20 years ago."

The city appealed the case. It went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled in Ramiro's favor.

But all the city legally had to pay is $100,000 under a state law that caps the city's liability.

Any award against the city of more than $100,000 must be authorized by state lawmakers.

"Everyone that suffers a consequence of the county, city or state shouldn't have to keep fighting over and over and over like David and Goliath," said Companino. "What about my hopes? What about my American life? Where did that go?"

Ramiro's fate is going back to Tallahassee. Two state legislators recently filed bills to get Ramiro his $17.8 million.