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Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014

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Tampa’s Sen. Joyner will press for compensation for FSU player’s family


Published:

A Tampa senator, also the incoming leader of that chamber’s Democrats, is now championing the cause of a Florida State University football player who died during preseason training.

State Sen. Arthenia Joyner filed a bill Tuesday that would lead to the state paying $1.8 million to the parents of Devaughn Darling, who collapsed and died in 2001.

The parents, Wendy Smith and Dennis Darling, Sr., reached a $2 million settlement with the university.

The state’s sovereign immunity laws, however, limit payment to $200,000 without approval from the Legislature to pay the full amount.

Joyner’s “claim bill” (SB 38), which will be considered during the 2015 legislative session, would direct payment of the remaining $1.8 million.

Similar claim bills stemming from the Darling death have failed to pass the Legislature in recent years.

Senators began filing claim bills last week for the 2015 session.

Most have to be filed for many years before they are considered. That’s because many lawmakers, such as outgoing Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, are philosophically opposed to claims bills.

“The claims bill process depends ... upon how good your lobbyist is and how much he gets paid and how well connected he is,” Gaetz once told the Associated Press. “It doesn’t depend on the merits of the case necessarily.”

Darling, an 18-year-old linebacker, died from cardiac arrhythmia during drills.

Then-Coach Bobby Bowden’s conditioning program came under scrutiny after Darling’s death, but the school was cleared in a police investigation.

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