Florida Senate - 2016                              (NP)    SB 26
       By Senator Negron
       32-00144-16                                             201626__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act for the relief of L.T.; providing an
    3         appropriation to compensate L.T. for injuries and
    4         damages sustained as a result of the negligence of
    5         employees of the Department of Children and Families,
    6         formerly known as the Department of Children and
    7         Family Services; providing for a waiver of specified
    8         lien interests held by the state; providing a
    9         limitation on the payment of fees and costs; providing
   10         an effective date.
   12         WHEREAS, on August 15, 1995, the Department of Children and
   13  Families removed 14-month-old L.T. and her infant brother from
   14  their mother’s custody because they were not receiving adequate
   15  care, and
   16         WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Families
   17  temporarily placed the children into the home of the children’s
   18  great aunt and uncle, Vicki and Eddie Thomas, and
   19         WHEREAS, a background check that was conducted shortly
   20  after L.T. and her brother were placed in the Thomases’ home
   21  indicated that Mr. Thomas had once been convicted of a
   22  misdemeanor and possession of narcotics equipment, and
   23         WHEREAS, the background check also revealed that Ms. Thomas
   24  had been charged with, but apparently not convicted of, larceny,
   25  and
   26         WHEREAS, the background check did not reveal any prior
   27  history of violence, sex offenses, or child abuse, and
   28         WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Families conducted
   29  a home study, interviews, and an investigation, concluded that
   30  the Thomases were capable of providing a safe and loving home
   31  for L.T. and her brother, and approved the placement, and
   32         WHEREAS, on August 21, 1996, approximately 1 year after
   33  L.T. and her brother had been placed in the Thomases’ home, Mr.
   34  Thomas was charged with committing a lewd and lascivious act on
   35  a child under the age of 16, and
   36         WHEREAS, the alleged victim was the 13-year-old daughter of
   37  a woman with whom Mr. Thomas was having an extramarital affair,
   38  and the state later amended the charge to add a count for sexual
   39  battery on a child by a familial or custodial authority, and
   40         WHEREAS, after two hung jury trials in January and March of
   41  1997, Mr. Thomas pled no contest in April 1997 to committing a
   42  lewd, lascivious, and indecent act on a child under the age of
   43  16, and
   44         WHEREAS, Mr. Thomas was sentenced to 5 years’ probation and
   45  required to attend sex offender classes and register as a sex
   46  offender, and
   47         WHEREAS, on May 9, 1997, 1 month after Mr. Thomas entered
   48  his plea and was convicted of a child sex crime, the Department
   49  of Children and Families recommended, and the judge approved, an
   50  order allowing Mr. Thomas to return home and have unsupervised
   51  contact with the children, and
   52         WHEREAS, although the policies of the Department of
   53  Children and Families barred Mr. Thomas from being able to adopt
   54  a child because of his conviction for a sex act with a child and
   55  his sex offender status, the policies did not prohibit the
   56  continued placement of L.T. and her brother in the Thomases’
   57  home, and so the children remained with the Thomases, and
   58         WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Families
   59  subsequently recommended to the court the permanent, long-term
   60  placement of L.T. and her brother in the Thomases’ home and
   61  further recommended that the children be removed from protective
   62  services, with no further supervision by the department, and
   63         WHEREAS, on March 3, 2000, following the recommendation of
   64  the Department of Children and Families, the court approved L.T.
   65  and her brother’s long-term placement with the Thomases and
   66  removed the children from continued protective services, and
   67         WHEREAS, on March 24, 2003, an abuse hotline call to the
   68  Department of Children and Families reported that L.T. was being
   69  abused by Mr. Thomas and that both Mr. and Ms. Thomas were using
   70  drugs in the children’s presence, and
   71         WHEREAS, the next day, a child protective investigator with
   72  the Department of Children and Families interviewed L.T. and her
   73  brother while in the presence of Ms. Thomas, and neither child
   74  was asked to be interviewed outside Ms. Thomas’s presence, and
   75         WHEREAS, L.T. and her brother denied the abuse allegations
   76  while Ms. Thomas watched and listened to them, and
   77         WHEREAS, results from new background checks and drug
   78  screens were negative, and the Department of Children and
   79  Families concluded that L.T. and her brother were not at risk of
   80  abuse and closed the case, and
   81         WHEREAS, on February 24, 2005, L.T. ran away from the
   82  Thomases’ home and was found by law enforcement officers, and
   83         WHEREAS, L.T. ran away from home because she had been
   84  repeatedly sexually and physically abused by Mr. Thomas and
   85  physically, verbally, and emotionally abused for years by Ms.
   86  Thomas, and
   87         WHEREAS, L.T. and her brother were finally removed from the
   88  Thomases’ home in 2005, and
   89         WHEREAS, since her removal from the Thomases’ home, L.T.
   90  has been the subject of repeated Baker Act proceedings and
   91  suicide attempts and has been in and out of inpatient and
   92  outpatient psychiatric facilities, and
   93         WHEREAS, L.T. has been seen and treated by physicians and
   94  mental health care professionals who have diagnosed her with
   95  depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, and
   96  other disorders attributed to her trauma, and
   97         WHEREAS, although L.T. struggles with the symptoms of
   98  posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, she
   99  attends a university in this state and supports herself with
  100  part-time employment as she works toward her goal of becoming a
  101  mental health care professional to help children who have been
  102  abused, neglected, or traumatized, and
  103         WHEREAS, a lawsuit was brought on L.T.’s behalf in state
  104  and federal courts alleging negligence pursuant to s. 768.28,
  105  Florida Statutes, and civil rights violations pursuant to 42
  106  U.S.C. s. 1983, and
  107         WHEREAS, the civil rights claims were disposed of by the
  108  trial court, but the negligence claims continued to be
  109  litigated, and a jury trial of the case was set in Leon County,
  110  and
  111         WHEREAS, the parties attended a court-ordered mediation and
  112  on June 21, 2010, the parties agreed to a mediated settlement
  113  under which L.T. will receive $1 million, $200,000 of which has
  114  been paid, and
  115         WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Families supports
  116  the passage of this claim bill for the unpaid portion of the
  117  settlement, which totals $800,000, NOW, THEREFORE,
  119  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  121         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
  122  found and declared to be true.
  123         Section 2. There is appropriated from the General Revenue
  124  Fund to the Department of Children and Families the sum of
  125  $800,000 for the relief of L.T. for the injuries and damages she
  126  sustained.
  127         Section 3. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw
  128  a warrant in the sum of $800,000, payable to a special needs
  129  trust created for the exclusive use and benefit of L.T., upon
  130  funds in the State Treasury to the credit of the Department of
  131  Children and Families, and the Chief Financial Officer is
  132  directed to pay the same out of such funds in the State Treasury
  133  not otherwise appropriated. The trust shall be administered by
  134  an institutional trustee that L.T. chooses and shall terminate
  135  upon L.T.’s 30th birthday, at which time the remaining principal
  136  shall revert to her, or if she predeceases the termination of
  137  the trust, the principal shall revert to her heirs,
  138  beneficiaries, or estate.
  139         Section 4. It is the intent of the Legislature that all
  140  lien interests held by the state resulting from the treatment
  141  and care of L.T. for the occurrences described in this act are
  142  waived.
  143         Section 5. The amount awarded pursuant to the waiver of
  144  sovereign immunity under s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the
  145  amount awarded under this act are intended to provide the sole
  146  compensation for all present and future claims arising out of
  147  the factual situation described in this act which resulted in
  148  the injuries and damages to L.T. The total amount paid for
  149  attorney fees, lobbying fees, costs, and other similar expenses
  150  relating to this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the total
  151  amount awarded under this act.
  152         Section 6. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.