Student injured when tire exploded set for nearly $5 million payout


Two former Palm Beach County high school students — one who was horrifically injured when a tire exploded in his shop class at Seminole Ridge High School — are poised to get money from the School Board to pay for their injuries.

In a lopsided vote of 117-2, the Florida House on Wednesday gave the final nod to an unusual bill that directs the School Board to pay Dustin Reinhardt $4.7 million for injuries he sustained in the 2013 explosion in his auto shop class. Now 20 and living in an assisted living facility, Reinhardt lost an eye and suffered severe brain damage in the accident. The Loxahatchee resident already has received $300,000 from the school district.

The bill also allows the School Board to pay $790,000 to Altavious Carter, who broke his neck in a 2005 traffic accident caused by a school bus driver. Carter, now 25, was a 14-year-old freshman basketball standout at the former Summit Christian School when the crash occurred.

Since the Florida Senate passed the measure 31-5 on Monday, the bill is headed to Gov. Rick Scott for his approval.

In Florida, the Legislature must approve any payments over $300,000 — sometimes less depending when the injury occurred — before taxpayer-backed agencies can pay people harmed by government wrongdoing. The measures are known as claims bills.

In addition to awarding money to the two young men, the Legislature also ordered the Florida Department of Children and Families to pay $3.75 million to Victor Barahona. He was was found near death in a van along Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach in 2011. Sprayed with pesticides, with chemical burns covering his body, he was alongside the decomposing body of his twin sister, Nubia.

Officials at DCF admitted ignoring years of evidence of severe abuse and neglect at the children’s Miami home. The adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, are awaiting trial on murder and attempted murder charges.

Former state Sen. J. Alex Villalobos, a lawyer who now works as a lobbyist, persuaded the Legislature to combine what had been two separate bills into one measure for Reinhardt and Carter. In his 25 years of watching the Legislature, he said he has never seen it combine two claims bills. Without it, he said it is likely Carter, who in 2010 was awarded $1 million for his injuries by a Palm Beach County jury, would have been forced to wait yet another year, hoping lawmakers would act.

Attorney Brian Denney, who represented Carter, said he was pleased the bill passed both chambers. But, having waited seven years, he said he wasn’t celebrating until Scott’s signature is affixed to the measure.

Reinhardt’s parents weren’t immediately available for comment. In the past, they have said that because their son lost parts of his brain that control reasoning and judgment, he likely will need someone to supervise day-to-day living for the rest of his life.

But despite his obstacles, his father, Scott, has said he remains the optimistic kid who once dreamed of being a mechanic or driving a long-haul truck. “He is — 99.9 percent of the time — cheerful, upbeat and looking forward to the next moment in his life,” Reinhardt said in an interview in January. “That’s just Dustin.”

Carter, who also played at Grandview Prep, earned a college scholarship to play basketball. But, medical experts said, the injuries he suffered will force him to have additional surgery as he ages.

With two days left in the legislative session, a former Wellington youth, identified only has CHM, is still waiting to see if the Legislature will pass a bill that would allow him to recover $5 million from DCF. A jury in 2013 agreed the state child welfare agency was negligent when it failed to warn his parents that a foster child they brought into their home was a predator.

The money is to help CHM deal with psychological problems he suffers as a result of being sexually assaulted by the foster child, also the victim of horrific abuse.

This year appears to be a good one for claims bills. In some recent legislative session, none have been approved.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Hurricane Irma: Selfless act during storm prep cost man his life
Hurricane Irma: Selfless act during storm prep cost man his life

After six years of courtship, Lucas Rockett and Jennifer Sangprasert recently decided to get married next June. Their love had spurred Rockett and Sangprasert to tattoo each other’s names on their necks and produced a little girl, Hazel Jean. Rockett was so smitten with his bride-to-be that he planned on taking her last name as his own. Hurricane...
Florida Keys: Local rum maker needs your help cleaning up paradise after Irma
Florida Keys: Local rum maker needs your help cleaning up paradise after Irma

Many of us think of Key West as a small piece of paradise. The second we see that blue wall of water, a weight is lifted from our shoulders. But for Ben Etheridge, who was born and raised in Royal Palm Beach and now owns Black Coral Rum distillery, the sight was different. In fact, it was the exact opposite because his most recent trip...
Why Boynton didn’t have the sewage problem after Irma that Delray had
Why Boynton didn’t have the sewage problem after Irma that Delray had

After Hurricane Irma hit Palm Beach County, Delray Beach workers had a messy situation on their hands: They had to keep sewage from spilling into the streets because the wind knocked out almost all of the sewage pumps. The Post’s Lulu Ramadan reported that residents were asked to limit flushing the toilet, running the shower or...
Lessons from Wilma: How county got key stoplights running after Irma
Lessons from Wilma: How county got key stoplights running after Irma

Hurricane Irma’s mammoth winds and relentless rain knocked out traffic lights at 600 of Palm Beach County’s 1,200 intersections, leaving employees on a hunt for backup until Florida Power & Light could put them back on the grid. They found 15 generators and deployed them at some of the 125 most critical intersections. The last...
Uninvited early visitor delays Lake Worth’s new book store opening
Uninvited early visitor delays Lake Worth’s new book store opening

Last month I wrote a column on Book Cellar , a new upscale store planning to open this month on 801 Lake Avenue, a vacant site way too long. But after Hurricane Irma hit Palm Beach County, I wondered if the opening date got pushed back, so I called Tamara Ayraud, one of the co-owners, to find out. Good news is the site,...
More Stories