Florida Senate - 2016 (NP) SB 30 By Senator Garcia 38-00128-16 201630__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of C.M.H.; providing an 3 appropriation to compensate C.M.H. for injuries and 4 damages sustained as a result of the negligence of the 5 Department of Children and Families, formerly known as 6 the Department of Children and Family Services; 7 providing a limitation on the payment of fees and 8 costs; providing an effective date. 9 10 WHEREAS, J.W. was victimized from the time he was 18 months 11 of age by his mother’s boyfriend, which caused him to become 12 sexually aggressive, and 13 WHEREAS, on September 5, 2002, J.W., then in the custody of 14 the Department of Children and Families (DCF), formerly known as 15 the Department of Children and Family Services, was temporarily 16 placed into the home of C.M.H., whose parents became nonrelative 17 caregivers and volunteered to have J.W. live in their home, and 18 WHEREAS, the DCF caseworker assigned to J.W.’s case failed 19 to disclose to C.M.H.’s family a recommendation that J.W. be 20 expeditiously placed in a residential treatment facility; that 21 he had an extensive history as a victim and perpetrator of 22 sexual abuse; and that he was an alleged juvenile sexual 23 offender, and 24 WHEREAS, prior to the placement of J.W. with the family, 25 DCF obtained a comprehensive behavioral health assessment that 26 stated that J.W. was sexually aggressive and recommended 27 specific precautions and training for potential foster parents, 28 and which C.M.H.’s parents did not receive, and 29 WHEREAS, the testimony of the DCF caseworker confirms that 30 DCF was aware that 10-year-old J.W. and C.M.H., who was then 8 31 years old, were sharing the same bedroom, and 32 WHEREAS, on October 31, 2002, J.W. sexually assaulted a 4 33 year-old child who was visiting C.M.H.’s home, and 34 WHEREAS, although DCF knew that J.W. was a sexual offender, 35 the agency did not remove him from the home, and 36 WHEREAS, DCF failed to implement a written safety plan as 37 required by DCF Operating Procedure 175-88, and 38 WHEREAS, after November 2002, J.W.’s behavioral problems 39 escalated, and he deliberately squeezed C.M.H.’s pet mouse to 40 death in front of C.M.H. and made physical threats toward 41 C.M.H., and 42 WHEREAS, C.M.H.’s parents decided to begin the process of 43 adopting J.W., whom they considered a part of their family, and 44 WHEREAS, the family subsequently became aware that J.W. 45 needed significant mental health treatment, including placement 46 in a residential treatment facility, and 47 WHEREAS, the family was informed by DCF that they would not 48 be granted visitation privileges if J.W. was removed from their 49 home and placed in a residential treatment facility, and 50 WHEREAS, in January 2004, the family began taking classes 51 to train to be therapeutic foster parents to better meet J.W.’s 52 needs, and 53 WHEREAS, in March 2004, after C.M.H.’s mother was diagnosed 54 with Stage 4, terminal, metastatic colon cancer, which had 55 spread to her liver, C.M.H.’s father, contacted DCF to postpone 56 the adoption, and 57 WHEREAS, in April 2004, DCF closed out J.W.’s dependency 58 file, leaving J.W. in the custody of the family without any 59 subsidies or assistance, and 60 WHEREAS, in April 2005, C.M.H.’s father wrote DCF and the 61 juvenile judge assigned to the case to request help in placing 62 J.W. in a residential treatment facility, however, DCF provided 63 no assistance, and 64 WHEREAS, on July 28, 2005, after a physical altercation 65 between J.W. and C.M.H., C.M.H. disclosed to his parents that 66 J.W. had sexually assaulted him, and J.W. was immediately 67 removed from the home, and 68 WHEREAS, C.M.H. sustained severe and permanent psychiatric 69 injury, including posttraumatic stress disorder, as a result of 70 the sexual and emotional abuse perpetrated by J.W., and without 71 immediate interventions will face a lifetime of dysfunction, 72 trauma, and tragedy, and 73 WHEREAS, the sexual assault of C.M.H. by J.W. was 74 predictable and preventable, and 75 WHEREAS, on April 14, 2006, a lawsuit, Case No. 2006 CA 76 003727, was filed in the 15th Judicial Circuit in and for Palm 77 Beach County on behalf of C.M.H., by and through his parents, 78 alleging negligence on the part of DCF and its providers, which 79 allowed the perpetration of sexual abuse against and the 80 victimization of C.M.H. by J.W., and 81 WHEREAS, DCF aggressively defended and denied the 82 allegations in the claim and a jury trial was set in Palm Beach 83 County, and 84 WHEREAS, on January 2, 2014, after a jury trial and verdict 85 for $5 million, the court entered a judgment against DCF for 86 $5,176,543.08, including costs, and 87 WHEREAS, the Division of Risk Management of the Department 88 of Financial Services has paid the family of C.M.H. $100,000, as 89 allowed under s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, for legal expenses, 90 which is less than half of the total amount of litigation costs 91 expended by plaintiff’s counsel to litigate this case and to 92 complete the trial, and 93 WHEREAS, C.M.H., now 22 years of age, is at a vulnerable 94 stage in his life and urgently needs to recover the balance of 95 the judgment awarded him so that his psychiatric injuries may be 96 addressed and he may lead a normal life, and 97 WHEREAS, the balance of the judgment is to be paid into an 98 irrevocable trust through the passage of this claim bill in the 99 amount of $5,076,543.08, NOW, THEREFORE, 100 101 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 102 103 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 104 found and declared to be true. 105 Section 2. There is appropriated from the General Revenue 106 Fund to the Department of Children and Families the sum of 107 $5,076,543.08 for the relief of C.M.H. for the personal injuries 108 and damages he sustained. After payment of attorney fees and 109 costs, lobbying fees, and other similar expenses relating to 110 this claim, the remaining funds shall be placed into an 111 irrevocable trust created for C.M.H. for his exclusive use and 112 benefit. 113 Section 3. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw 114 a warrant in favor of C.M.H. in the sum of $5,076,543.08 upon 115 funds of the Department of Children and Families in the State 116 Treasury, and the Chief Financial Officer is directed to pay the 117 same out of such funds in the State Treasury not otherwise 118 appropriated. 119 Section 4. The amount paid by the Department of Children 120 and Families pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the 121 amount awarded under this act are intended to provide the sole 122 compensation for all present and future claims arising out of 123 the factual situation described in the preamble to this act 124 which resulted in the personal injuries and damages to C.M.H. 125 The total amount of attorney fees and lobbying fees relating to 126 this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded under 127 this act. 128 Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.