Florida Senate - 2012 (NP) SB 12 By Senator Flores 38-00122-12 201212__ 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; authorizing the department to 9 request additional funds under extraordinary 10 circumstances; providing for the reversion of funds; 11 providing that Angela Sozzani’s attorneys have 12 represented her pro bono and that fees and costs have 13 not been awarded; providing an effective date. 14 15 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani, whose date of birth is April 21, 16 2000, was in the legal custody of the Department of Children and 17 Family Services and had been placed in the medical foster home 18 of Ronald and Joyce Bryson on February 6, 2001, and 19 WHEREAS, Ronald Bryson and Joyce Bryson were each licensed 20 by the Department of Children and Family Services to provide 21 foster care pursuant to s. 409.175, Florida Statutes, and 22 WHEREAS, on April 17, 2002, Ronald and Joyce Bryson were 23 providing foster care to three medically needy foster children 24 and after-school care to their two special-needs grandchildren, 25 even though their foster home was licensed by the Department of 26 Children and Family Services to provide care for only two 27 children, and 28 WHEREAS, on April 17, 2002, Ronald and Joyce Bryson were 29 hosting a party and allowed their two grandchildren to swim in 30 their swimming pool without adult supervision, and 31 WHEREAS, on April 17, 2002, Angela Sozzani, who was nearly 32 2 years of age and was not being supervised, wandered out the 33 open patio door to the pool and fell into the swimming pool, 34 nearly drowning, and 35 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani experienced a severe hypoxic 36 ischemic encephalopathy, secondary to a near drowning, and, as a 37 result, is forever dependent on receiving 24-hour medical and 38 supportive care, and 39 WHEREAS, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Angela Sozzani in 40 Pinellas County against the Department of Children and Family 41 Services, Ronald and Joyce Bryson, Family Continuity Program, 42 Inc., and Help a Child, Inc., and 43 WEHREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Ronald and Joyce 44 Bryson is based on each person’s failure to properly supervise 45 Angela and their failure to follow rules of the Department of 46 Children and Family Services, and 47 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Family Continuity 48 Program, Inc., which was the lead agency in Pinellas County 49 pursuant to s. 409.1671, Florida Statutes, during the period 50 that Angela was placed in the Bryson home, is based on the 51 entity’s failure to comply with rules of the Department of 52 Children and Family Services, failure to perform monthly home 53 visits, failure to ensure Angela’s safety in the Bryson foster 54 home, and failure to report the licensing violations that were 55 observed in the Bryson foster home, and 56 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Help a Child, Inc., 57 which was the private entity that contracted with the Department 58 of Children and Family Services to oversee the operation of the 59 medical foster care program through which the Brysons were 60 licensed, is based on the entity’s failure to properly oversee 61 and manage the Bryson foster home, failure to train Ronald and 62 Joyce Bryson, failure to comply with rules of the Department of 63 Children and Family Services, and failure to report the 64 licensing violations that were observed in the Bryson foster 65 home, and 66 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against the Department of 67 Children and Family Services is based on the department’s 68 failure to follow its own operating procedures and guidelines 69 with respect to the licensure of the Bryson foster home, which 70 the department knew or should have known would be a dangerous 71 environment to all children, including Angela Sozzani, and 72 WHEREAS, as a disabled person, Angela Sozzani is in need of 73 funds necessary for her care, and 74 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani continues to need 24-hour medical 75 care and treatment as a result of the actions giving rise to 76 this claim, and 77 WHEREAS, Robert F. Cullen, Jr., M.D., F.A.A.P., Director 78 Emeritus of Child Neurology of Miami Children’s Hospital, has 79 reported that, with optimum medical care, Angela Sozzani’s life 80 expectancy will be approximately 20 to 30 years, and 81 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani and Family Continuity Program, 82 Inc., and Help a Child, Inc., have conditionally reached a 83 settlement for the limits of each entity’s available insurance, 84 and 85 WHEREAS, pursuant to s. 409.175(15), Florida Statutes, any 86 person who owns and operates a family foster home for the 87 Department of Children and Family Services, including Ronald and 88 Joyce Bryson, is provided coverage through the Division of Risk 89 Management of the Department of Financial Services, as provided 90 in ss. 284.38 and 284.385, Florida Statutes, and 91 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani and Ronald and Joyce Bryson have 92 reached a settlement, and 93 WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Family Services has 94 agreed to tender on behalf of Ronald and Joyce Bryson $100,000 95 pursuant to s. 409.175(15), Florida Statutes, to compensate 96 Angela Sozzani for damages, and provide a basis for this claim 97 bill, and 98 WHEREAS, a special needs trust has been established for the 99 exclusive benefit and use of Angela Sozzani, and 100 WHEREAS, the net settlement proceeds from each defendant 101 will be deposited into the special needs trust, and 102 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani is currently eligible for and 103 receiving Medicaid, which is funding her placement, treatment, 104 and care costs, and 105 WHEREAS, if Medicaid does not provide any medically 106 necessary and appropriate health care services, as determined by 107 Angela Sozzani’s treatment team, such services will be paid for 108 using assets from the special needs trust, and 109 WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Family Services 110 supports this act to ensure that Angela Sozzani has the funding 111 and resources necessary to obtain all medically necessary and 112 appropriate health care for her entire life, and 113 WHEREAS, because it is unknown how long Angela Sozzani will 114 actually live and if her medically necessary and appropriate 115 health care will be provided through Medicaid, the Department of 116 Children and Family Services has agreed to request in its annual 117 legislative budget request funds to replenish any funds in the 118 special needs trust which are expended to provide for Angela’s 119 placement costs and medical care and treatment that are not 120 funded by Medicaid, and 121 WHEREAS, upon the death of Angela Sozzani, any proceeds 122 remaining in her special needs trust shall first be used to 123 satisfy the Medicaid lien, together with any additional amounts 124 owed pursuant to the lien, and the remainder shall be paid to 125 the General Revenue Fund, NOW, THEREFORE, 126 127 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 128 129 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 130 found and declared to be true. 131 Section 2. The Department of Children and Family Services 132 shall include in its annual legislative budget request for each 133 fiscal year a request for a specific amount to replenish the 134 special needs trust of Angela Sozzani up to $180,000, to the 135 extent that any funds in the special needs trust have been 136 expended for Angela Sozzani’s placement costs and medical care 137 and treatment. As part of its initial request, the department 138 shall include all funds expended after the date upon which the 139 special needs trust was established through the date of the 140 initial request. 141 Section 3. The Department of Children and Family Services 142 may, under extraordinary circumstances, request in its annual 143 legislative budget request funds in excess of the limit provided 144 in section 2 of this act to replenish funds in the special needs 145 trust which are expended for Angela Sozzani’s placement costs 146 and medical care and treatment. 147 Section 4. Upon the death of Angela Sozzani, any proceeds 148 remaining in her special needs trust shall first be used to 149 satisfy the Medicaid lien, together with any additional amounts 150 owed pursuant to the lien, and the remainder shall revert to the 151 General Revenue Fund. 152 Section 5. Attorney’s fees, lobbying fees, costs, and other 153 similar expenses relating to this claim have not been awarded 154 since Angela Sozzani’s attorneys have provided pro bono 155 representation. 156 Section 6. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.