Sebastian woman relates to Stephens' battle

Posted at 7:51 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-06 10:50:09-05

Laura LaPorte has been following the Dontrell Stephens case from her farm in Sebastian, Florida.

If anyone understands the battle he'll face trying to collect the $23 million a jury awarded him, it is LaPorte.

"I would say to him not to count his chickens before they hatch. He is in for a long, hard road," LaPorte said.

Stephens was awarded the $23 million verdict after a jury decided a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy used excessive force when he shot unarmed Stephens.

But he'll have to get a special bill passed through the Florida Legislature in order to get the money.

LaPorte's circumstances are far different, but she ended up in the same situation -- needing the Florida Legislature to pass a claims bill so she can get her money.

LaPorte was driving when a Department of Agriculture worker slammed into her in 1999.

"I had a broken right foot, right ankle, femur, hip and pelvis, ruptured my spleen and damaged kidneys," LaPorte said.

A jury awarded her $5.5 million. And then she spent nearly a decade trying to convince state legislators to finally give her the money. In the end, she managed to get a bill passed, but didn't get the full amount.

"I went to Tallahassee. I met every senator. I met every house of representative...I had to fight the fight and they had to know who I was," LaPorte said.

LaPorte has this advice for Dontrell Stephens: "Let him be known. Speak for himself. Go to Tallahassee. Be known. And share your case."

LaPorte now lives on a farm near Sebastian with animals ranging from a Zebra to monkeys.

But even surrounded by the animals she loves, she is plagued with health issues she says are still connected to her wreck.

"There is no amount of money worth not having your health or your legs to get around," she said.