Florida Senate - 2011 (NP) SB 338 By Senator Flores 38-00540-11 2011338__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Angela Sozzani; requiring 3 that the Department of Children and Family Services 4 request up to a certain amount in its annual 5 legislative budget request each fiscal year to 6 compensate Angela Sozzani for injuries and damages she 7 sustained as a result of the negligence of employees 8 of the Department of Children and Family Services; 9 authorizing the department to request additional funds 10 under extraordinary circumstances; providing for the 11 reversion of funds; providing that Angela Sozzani’s 12 attorneys have represented her pro bono and fees and 13 costs have not been awarded; providing an effective 14 date. 15 16 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani, whose date of birth is April 21, 17 2000, was in the legal custody of the Department of Children and 18 Family Services and had been placed in the medical foster home 19 of Ronald and Joyce Bryson on February 6, 2001, and 20 WHEREAS, Ronald Bryson and Joyce Bryson were each licensed 21 by the Department of Children and Family Services to provide 22 foster care pursuant to s. 409.175, Florida Statutes, and 23 WHEREAS, on April 17, 2002, Ronald and Joyce Bryson were 24 providing foster care to three medically needy foster children 25 and after-school care to their two special-needs grandchildren, 26 even though their foster home was licensed by the Department of 27 Children and Family Services to provide care for only two 28 children, and 29 WHEREAS, on April 17, 2002, Ronald and Joyce Bryson were 30 hosting a party and allowed their two grandchildren to swim in 31 their swimming pool without adult supervision, and 32 WHEREAS, on April 17, 2002, Angela Sozzani, who was nearly 33 2 years of age and was not being supervised, wandered out the 34 open patio door to the pool and fell into the swimming pool, 35 nearly drowning, and 36 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani experienced a severe hypoxic 37 ischemic encephalopathy, secondary to a near drowning, and, as a 38 result, is forever dependent on receiving 24-hour medical and 39 supportive care, and 40 WHEREAS, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Angela Sozzani in 41 Pinellas County against the Department of Children and Family 42 Services, Ronald and Joyce Bryson, Family Continuity Program, 43 Inc., and Help a Child, Inc., and 44 WEHREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Ronald and Joyce 45 Bryson is based on each person’s failure to properly supervise 46 Angela and their failure to follow rules of the Department of 47 Children and Family Services, and 48 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Family Continuity 49 Program, Inc., which was the lead agency in Pinellas County 50 pursuant to s. 409.1671, Florida Statutes, during the period 51 that Angela was placed in the Bryson home, is based on the 52 entity’s failure to comply with rules of the Department of 53 Children and Family Services, failure to perform monthly home 54 visits, failure to ensure Angela’s safety in the Bryson foster 55 home, and failure to report the licensing violations that were 56 observed in the Bryson foster home, and 57 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Help a Child, Inc., 58 which was the private entity that contracted with the Department 59 of Children and Family Services to oversee the operation of the 60 medical foster care program through which the Brysons were 61 licensed, is based on the entity’s failure to properly oversee 62 and manage the Bryson foster home, failure to train Ronald and 63 Joyce Bryson, failure to comply with rules of the Department of 64 Children and Family Services, and failure to report the 65 licensing violations that were observed in the Bryson foster 66 home, and 67 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against the Department of 68 Children and Family Services is based on the department’s 69 failure to follow its own operating procedures and guidelines 70 with respect to the licensure of the Bryson foster home, which 71 the department knew or should have known would be a dangerous 72 environment to all children, including Angela Sozzani, and 73 WHEREAS, as a disabled person, Angela Sozzani is in need of 74 funds necessary for her care, and 75 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani continues to need 24-hour medical 76 care and treatment as a result of the actions giving rise to 77 this claim, and 78 WHEREAS, Robert F. Cullen, Jr., M.D., F.A.A.P., Director 79 Emeritus of Child Neurology of Miami Children’s Hospital, has 80 reported that, with optimum medical care, Angela Sozzani’s life 81 expectancy will be approximately 20 to 30 years, and 82 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani and Family Continuity Program, 83 Inc., and Help a Child, Inc., have conditionally reached a 84 settlement for the limits of each entity’s available insurance, 85 and 86 WHEREAS, pursuant to s. 409.175(15), Florida Statutes, any 87 person who owns and operates a family foster home for the 88 Department of Children and Family Services, including Ronald and 89 Joyce Bryson, is provided coverage through the Division of Risk 90 Management of the Department of Financial Services, as provided 91 in ss. 284.38 and 284.385, Florida Statutes, and 92 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani and Ronald and Joyce Bryson have 93 reached a settlement, and 94 WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Family Services has 95 agreed to tender on behalf of Ronald and Joyce Bryson $100,000 96 pursuant to s. 409.175(15), Florida Statutes, to compensate 97 Angela Sozzani for damages, and provide a basis for this claim 98 bill, and 99 WHEREAS, a special needs trust has been established for the 100 exclusive benefit and use of Angela Sozzani, and 101 WHEREAS, the net settlement proceeds from each defendant 102 will be deposited into the special needs trust, and 103 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani is currently eligible for and 104 receiving Medicaid, which is funding her placement, treatment, 105 and care costs, and 106 WHEREAS, if Medicaid does not provide any medically 107 necessary and appropriate health care services, as determined by 108 Angela Sozzani’s treatment team, such services will be paid for 109 using assets from the special needs trust, and 110 WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Family Services 111 supports this act to ensure that Angela Sozzani has the funding 112 and resources necessary to obtain all medically necessary and 113 appropriate health care for her entire life, and 114 WHEREAS, because it is unknown how long Angela Sozzani will 115 actually live and if her medically necessary and appropriate 116 health care will be provided through Medicaid, the Department of 117 Children and Family Services has agreed to request in its annual 118 legislative budget request funds to replenish any funds that are 119 expended by the special needs trust to provide for Angela’s 120 placement costs and medical care and treatment which are not 121 funded by Medicaid, and 122 WHEREAS, upon the death of Angela Sozzani, any proceeds 123 remaining in her special needs trust shall first be used to 124 satisfy the Medicaid lien, together with any additional amounts 125 owed pursuant to the lien, and the remainder shall be paid to 126 the General Revenue Fund, NOW, THEREFORE, 127 128 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 129 130 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 131 found and declared to be true. 132 Section 2. The Department of Children and Family Services 133 shall include in its annual legislative budget request for each 134 fiscal year a request for a specific amount to replenish the 135 special needs trust of Angela Sozzani up to $180,000, to the 136 extent that any funds in the special needs trust have been 137 expended for Angela Sozzani’s placement costs and medical care 138 and treatment. As part of its initial request, the department 139 shall include all funds expended after the date upon which the 140 special needs trust was established through the date of the 141 initial request. 142 Section 3. The Department of Children and Family Services 143 may, under extraordinary circumstances, request in its annual 144 legislative budget request funds in excess of the limit provided 145 in section 2 of this act to replenish funds in the special needs 146 trust which are expended for Angela Sozzani’s placement costs 147 and medical care and treatment. 148 Section 4. Upon the death of Angela Sozzani, any proceeds 149 remaining in her special needs trust shall first be used to 150 satisfy the Medicaid lien, together with any additional amounts 151 owed pursuant to the lien, and the remainder shall revert to the 152 General Revenue Fund. 153 Section 5. Attorney’s fees, lobbying fees, costs, and other 154 similar expenses relating to this claim have not been awarded 155 since Angela Sozzani’s attorneys have provided pro bono 156 representation. 157 Section 6. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.