News Cast 4/5

News Cast for April 5th:

More lawsuits to handle

Okeechobee courts were impacted by changes in state law.

143 certain civil filings most of them negligence lawsuits were filed during March.

The average for the month was 18.

Clerk of the court Jerry Bryant said the law change limited the statute of limitations to two years from four.

They also changed how attorney fees are collected in civil cases.

Many of the filings had to do with negligence and insurance claims.

Civil Attorney Michael Dickensen filed several of these cases including several involving tractor trailer crashes

“The amount of time you have to go through the process is much shorter.  Depending upon the injury a person suffers, this may not be enough time for us to get a handle on how severe it is or the impacts.”

He said some cases will be filed that wouldn’t have been filed in the past.

Supporters said it reduces frivolous lawsuits and protects our businesses.

Opponents said it does too much to protect insurance companies and makes it harder to win lawsuits and judgments.

A new state law could cost Glades County upwards of $250,000  per year.

The law requires at least two dispatchers in the 911 center at all times.

Glades County has had recent trouble even hiring dispatchers although they now have a full crew for one dispatcher per shift.

Commissioner Jerry Sapp said the county doesn’t have this kind of money lying around and they are put between a rock and a hard place.

“Can you scrape around and find some money.  Look at your salaries is there anywhere you can cut.  I wouldn’t want my salary cut but we don’t have that kind of money.”

At issue is the requirement that a 911 dispatcher must stay on the line with that caller until the call for service is dealt with.

Okeechobee County Sheriff Deputies have solved a vandalism case at Lock 7.

Jonathan Melton, 24 is charged with causing over $1,000 in damage to a bathroom at the lake recreation facility on February 4th.

Deputies said the sink and divider were damaged.  The charge is felony criminal mischief.

A SWAT Team raids a home at 3564 NW 6th Avenue on Monday.

Robert Futch, 23 is facing charges related to stolen guns.

The charges include dealing in stolen property, possession of a weapon or ammunition by a convicted felon and grand theft firearm.

A burn ban imposed in neighboring Highlands County.  They have seen a dramatic increase in their drought index.

County commissioners Don Elwell said this prohibits most types of land burns.

“This includes yard trash, bonfires, camp fires, all those types of things.  It does not impact cooking fires.”

Commissioners encouraged staff to do a good job of promoting the burn ban.

Okeechobee County is listed as abnormally dry.