Commissioners approve $200K settlement for family of woman who died in Lakeland fire

Polk County

BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County commissioners have approved a $200,000 settlement with the family of Lorretta Pickard.

At a board meeting Tuesday morning, county commissioners unanimously approved the settlement recommendation for the Pickard estate.

“It provides closure in a way that now I’m not worrying that it’s going to happen to another family because now they’re more diligent,” said Amber Addison about the settlement. “They’re on it. They’re making sure that everything’s made right and that makes me sleep a lot better at night.”

The amount agreed upon by the county is maximum amount a government can be held liable for, according to Florida state law.

“I think by allowing the maximum amount, by not making us pursue this in court by just saying ‘here’s the maximum amount and we’re making changes,’ I feel grateful for that,” said Addison.

George Lindsey, the chair of the Board of County Commissioners, declined to comment on behalf of the county.

Pickard, 76, died in her burning Lakeland home in November 2018.

An 8 On Your Side investigation uncovered that Polk County Fire Rescue responders never made entry into her home. Pickard remained on the phone with a 911 dispatcher for 12 minutes.

Captain James Williams resigned in March after violating policy for video he shared on social media from the deadly fire in November. Williams was under investigation for allegedly lying under oath about taking previous videos at fire scenes.

Chief Tony Stravino announced his retirement in May.

Pickard’s family announced their intent to sue the county in April.

In June, Interim Polk County Fire Rescue Chief Rob Weech laid out an outside investigator’s key findings and recommendations on how to improve public safety moving forward.

“If you choose to adopt all of the key findings immediately, we would approximate a $5.5 million recurring charge, one time cost of about $3.4 million,” Interim Chief Weech told the Polk County Board of Commissioners.

The board is willing to do what it takes, George Lindsey said at the time.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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