Settlement reached in fatal crash caused by Osceola County deputy

Victim's family to be paid $200,000

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – A $200,000 settlement has been reached months after an Osceola County deputy who claimed her brakes failed caused a crash that killed a 34-year-old Clermont man.

Officials from Osceola County said the settlement was reached during a commission meeting on Monday. The money will be paid to the family of Robert Johnston, who died after Osceola County Deputy Gloria Boccio, 29, struck the back of his pickup truck, which then hit another vehicle, according to authorities.

Morgan & Morgan attorney Louis DeFreitas represented Johnston's estate. He noted that $200,000 is the maximum settlement amount allowed under Florida's sovereign immunity statute.

“Robert Johnston lost his life in this tragic incident. The money recovered will not bring him back, and it’s unfortunate that there’s a sovereign cap that prevents us from readily obtaining greater compensation for his family. While nothing will make up for losing a beloved family member, we’re pleased the Sheriff’s office resolved the case rather than force the family to litigate against them for this terrible loss,” DeFreitas said.

Records show that Boccio told investigators that the brakes on her Dodge Charger had malfunctioned moments before she slammed into Johnston's truck as he was stopped at a red light on U.S. Highway 192.

"I need to talk to them. These brakes, there's no f------ brakes on my car just now," Boccio said in the recorded call after the crash. "They said they replaced the brakes, but there was no brakes on my car."

She had been traveling at about 55 mph and was not wearing a seat belt, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Officials said that about 10 days before the Oct. 5, 2018 crash, Boccio's assigned patrol vehicle had been taken to Napleton's South Orlando Dodge because Boccio had reported brake issues, but mechanics there were unable to replicate the issues.

About a week after she returned from administrative duty in connection with that crash, Boccio was involved in a wreck on State Road 417 in Orlando, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Boccio was in a department-issued Ford Explorer when, for an unknown reason, she failed to slow down to accommodate for traffic, so she swerved left into the center lane to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of her, which caused the front of a pickup truck that was in the center lane to hit the rear of Boccio's patrol vehicle, troopers said.

The impact from that crash caused the front of Boccio's patrol vehicle to hit the Mini Cooper she had initially been traveling behind in the right lane, according to the report. Then, the Mini Cooper was pushed into the back of a Volkswagen.

None of the drivers involved, including Boccio, were injured.

Deputies said after the crash on Nov. 6, Boccio had been reassigned to a role within the agency that did not require her to drive a department vehicle.

Check back for more information on this developing story.