Florida Senate - 2021 (NP) SB 350 By Senator Rodriguez 39-00740-21 2021350__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Angela Sozzani; requiring 3 that the Department of Children and Families request 4 up to a certain amount in its annual legislative 5 budget request each fiscal year to compensate Angela 6 Sozzani for injuries and damages she sustained as a 7 result of the negligence of individuals and entities 8 licensed by the department; authorizing the department 9 to request additional funds under extraordinary 10 circumstances; providing for the satisfaction of any 11 liens and the reversion of remaining funds in the 12 special needs trust upon Angela Sozzani’s death; 13 providing that fees and costs have not been awarded; 14 providing an effective 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 Families (formerly known as the Department of Children and 19 Family Services) and had been placed in the medical foster home 20 of Ronald and Joyce Bryson on February 6, 2001, and 21 WHEREAS, Ronald Bryson and Joyce Bryson were each licensed 22 by the Department of Children and Families to provide foster 23 care pursuant to s. 409.175, Florida Statutes, and 24 WHEREAS, on April 17, 2002, Ronald and Joyce Bryson were 25 providing foster care to three foster children with special 26 medical needs and after-school care to their two special-needs 27 grandchildren, even though their foster home was licensed by the 28 Department of Children and Families to provide care for only two 29 children, and 30 WHEREAS, on April 17, 2002, Ronald and Joyce Bryson were 31 hosting a party and allowed their two grandchildren to swim in 32 their swimming pool without adult supervision, and 33 WHEREAS, on April 17, 2002, Angela Sozzani, who was nearly 34 2 years of age and was unsupervised, wandered out through an 35 open patio door to the pool area and fell into the swimming 36 pool, and 37 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani experienced severe hypoxic-ischemic 38 encephalopathy, secondary to a near drowning, and, as a result, 39 is dependent on receiving 24-hour medical and supportive care, 40 and 41 WHEREAS, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Angela Sozzani in 42 Pinellas County against the Department of Children and Families, 43 Ronald and Joyce Bryson, Family Continuity Programs, Inc., and 44 Help a Child, Inc., and 45 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Ronald and Joyce 46 Bryson was based on each person’s failure to properly supervise 47 Angela Sozzani and failure to follow rules of the Department of 48 Children and Families, and 49 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Family Continuity 50 Programs, Inc., which was the lead agency in Pinellas County 51 pursuant to former s. 409.1671, Florida Statutes, during the 52 period that Angela Sozzani was placed in the Bryson home, was 53 based on the entity’s failure to comply with Department of 54 Children and Families rules, failure to perform monthly home 55 visits, failure to ensure Angela Sozzani’s safety in the Bryson 56 foster home, and failure to report the licensing violations that 57 were observed in the Bryson foster home, and 58 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Help a Child, Inc., 59 which was the private entity that contracted with the Department 60 of Children and Families to oversee the operation of the medical 61 foster care program through which the Brysons were licensed, was 62 based on the entity’s failure to properly oversee and manage the 63 Bryson foster home, failure to adequately train Ronald and Joyce 64 Bryson, failure to comply with Department of Children and 65 Families rules, and failure to report the licensing violations 66 that were observed in the Bryson foster home, and 67 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against the Department of 68 Children and Families is based on the department’s failure to 69 follow its own operating procedures and guidelines with respect 70 to the licensure of the Bryson foster home, which the department 71 knew or should have known would be a dangerous environment for 72 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, Angela Sozzani and Family Continuity Programs, 79 Inc., and Help a Child, Inc., have reached a settlement for the 80 limits of each entity’s available insurance, and 81 WHEREAS, pursuant to s. 409.175(15), Florida Statutes, any 82 person who owns or operates a family foster home for the 83 Department of Children and Families, including Ronald and Joyce 84 Bryson, is provided coverage through the Division of Risk 85 Management of the Department of Financial Services, as provided 86 in ss. 284.38 and 284.385, Florida Statutes, and 87 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani and Ronald and Joyce Bryson have 88 reached a settlement, and 89 WHEREAS, the Division of Financial Services paid $200,000, 90 which includes $100,000 on behalf of the Department of Children 91 and Families and $100,000 on behalf of Ronald and Joyce Bryson, 92 pursuant to s. 409.175(15), Florida Statutes, to compensate 93 Angela Sozzani for damages, and 94 WHEREAS, a special needs trust has been established for the 95 exclusive benefit and use of Angela Sozzani, and 96 WHEREAS, the net settlement proceeds from each defendant 97 totaling $978,837.62 were deposited into the special needs 98 trust, and 99 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani is currently eligible for and 100 receiving Medicaid, which is funding her placement, treatment, 101 and care costs, and 102 WHEREAS, if Medicaid does not provide any medically 103 necessary and appropriate health care services, as determined by 104 Angela Sozzani’s treatment team, such services will be paid for 105 using assets from the special needs trust, and 106 WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Families supports 107 this act to ensure that Angela Sozzani has the funding and 108 resources necessary to obtain all medically necessary and 109 appropriate health care for her entire life, and 110 WHEREAS, since Angela Sozzani’s parents’ rights were 111 terminated, the Department of Children and Families, through its 112 lead agency, ChildNet, Inc., has not been able to find a 113 permanent family to adopt Angela Sozzani, and she has lived, 114 been cared for, and been treated at Kidz Korner for 17 years, 115 which has been her only home, with the Department of Children 116 and Families’ support, and 117 WHEREAS, Dr. Nicholas D.A. Suite, M.D., a board-certified 118 neurologist, has recently reported that Angela Sozzani’s 119 condition has improved from an anoxic-ischemic coma in a 120 persistent vegetative state to a minimally conscious state and 121 that, with optimum medical care such as she has been receiving 122 at Kidz Korner, Angela Sozzani’s life expectancy can be 123 approximately 20 to 25 years, and 124 WHEREAS, as Angela Sozzani will be turning 21 on April 21, 125 2021, this legislative session will be her last opportunity to 126 obtain the passage of a claims bill before the time that she is 127 at risk of facing significant expenditures from her trust 128 because of the reduction in her Medicaid benefits as a medically 129 fragile child under the age of 21, and 130 WHEREAS, because it is unknown how long Angela Sozzani will 131 live, and if medically necessary and appropriate health care 132 will be provided through Medicaid, the Department of Children 133 and Families has agreed to request, in its annual legislative 134 budget request, funds to replenish those funds that have been 135 expended by the special needs trust to provide for Angela 136 Sozzani’s placement costs and medical care and treatment which 137 are not funded by Medicaid, and 138 WHEREAS, upon the death of Angela Sozzani, any proceeds 139 remaining in her special needs trust shall first be used to 140 satisfy the Medicaid lien, together with any additional amounts 141 owed pursuant to the lien, and the remainder shall be paid to 142 the General Revenue Fund, NOW, THEREFORE, 143 144 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 145 146 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 147 found and declared to be true. 148 Section 2. The Department of Children and Families shall 149 include in its annual legislative budget request for each fiscal 150 year a request for a specific amount to replenish the special 151 needs trust of Angela Sozzani, up to $180,000, to the extent 152 that any funds in the special needs trust have been expended for 153 Angela Sozzani’s placement costs and medical care and treatment. 154 Section 3. In the event of extraordinary circumstances, the 155 Department of Children and Families, in its sole discretion, may 156 seek in its annual legislative budget request an amount in 157 excess of the limit provided in section 2 of this act to 158 replenish the funds in the special needs trust which have been 159 expended for Angela Sozzani’s placement costs and medical care 160 and treatment. 161 Section 4. Upon the death of Angela Sozzani, any proceeds 162 remaining in her special needs trust shall first be used to 163 satisfy the Medicaid lien, together with any additional amounts 164 owed pursuant to the lien, and the remainder shall revert to the 165 General Revenue Fund. 166 Section 5. Attorney fees, lobbying fees, costs, and other 167 similar expenses relating to this claim have not been awarded 168 since Angela Sozzani’s attorneys have provided pro bono 169 representation. 170 Section 6. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.