Florida Senate - 2024                              (NP)    SB 16
       By Senator Calatayud
       38-00116-24                                             202416__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act for the relief of Michael Barnett, individually
    3         and as the natural parent and legal guardian of R.B.;
    4         providing an appropriation to compensate Mr. Barnett
    5         and R.B. for injuries and damages sustained as a
    6         result of the negligence of the Department of Children
    7         and Families; providing a limitation on compensation
    8         and the payment of attorney fees; providing an
    9         effective date.
   11         WHEREAS, in September 2010, Patrick Dell entered the
   12  Riviera Beach residence of his estranged wife, Natasha Whyte
   13  Dell, where he fatally shot her and four of her children and
   14  severely wounded a fifth child by shooting him in the neck, and
   15         WHEREAS, Dell committed suicide shortly after exiting the
   16  residence, and
   17         WHEREAS, several months before the shootings, on January
   18  26, 2010, the abuse hotline of the Department of Children and
   19  Families received a phone call about an incident that occurred
   20  in December 2009, and
   21         WHEREAS, according to the police report of the December
   22  2009 incident, while Natasha Whyte-Dell was visiting a friend,
   23  Patrick Dell charged at and threatened Ms. Whyte-Dell with a
   24  knife, verbally threatened to kill her, and flattened all four
   25  tires on her vehicle, and
   26         WHEREAS, later that same morning, Patrick Dell was arrested
   27  for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and criminal
   28  mischief, and
   29         WHEREAS, over the course of the following month, the
   30  Department of Children and Families conducted an investigation
   31  but subsequently closed the case file on February 25, 2010,
   32  after concluding that the children were not at significant risk
   33  of harm, and
   34         WHEREAS, a history of threats of violence existed before
   35  Patrick Dell’s shootings of Natasha Whyte-Dell and her children,
   36  and
   37         WHEREAS, the Riviera Beach Police Department had responded
   38  to the Whyte-Dell home 34 times in the 4 years preceding the day
   39  of the shootings, and
   40         WHEREAS, 11 of those police responses were for domestic
   41  violence disturbances, and
   42         WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Families knew or
   43  had reason to know of the threats and had numerous opportunities
   44  to remove the children from that dangerous environment, yet did
   45  not act and had closed its case file, and
   46         WHEREAS, the department’s southeast regional director
   47  acknowledged that the department could have and should have done
   48  more for the family and admitted that the investigation was
   49  “subpar,” and
   50         WHEREAS, the department’s child protective investigator
   51  assigned to the case failed to follow policies and procedures,
   52  and
   53         WHEREAS, the investigator himself had been accused of
   54  domestic violence and was facing pending domestic violence
   55  charges, and
   56         WHEREAS, because of the investigator’s errors and
   57  omissions, the department failed to follow up on warning signs
   58  that any reasonable investigation should have evaluated,
   59  analyzed, and acted upon, especially after discovering the
   60  investigator’s inherent conflict of interest, and
   61         WHEREAS, the department failed to perform any secondary
   62  review or reinvestigation of the Whyte-Dell case after the
   63  investigator’s pending domestic violence charges were made
   64  public, and
   65         WHEREAS, in an appeal to the Supreme Court of Florida, the
   66  court held that the Whyte-Dell family shootings are to be
   67  treated as a single incident or occurrence, and
   68         WHEREAS, Michael Barnett, individually and as the natural
   69  parent and legal guardian of R.B., and as the personal
   70  representative of the estates of D.B., D.B., and B.B., entered
   71  into a settlement agreement and release and a consent final
   72  judgment with the State of Florida and the Department of
   73  Children and Families, and
   74         WHEREAS, per the settlement agreement and release, Michael
   75  Barnett and R.B. agree to accept the total amount of $160,000,
   76  including attorney fees and costs, and
   77         WHEREAS, through the consent final judgment, judgment was
   78  entered in favor of Michael Barnett and R.B. and against the
   79  department in the amount of $296,400, NOW, THEREFORE,
   81  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   83         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
   84  found and declared to be true.
   85         Section 2. The sum of $296,400 is appropriated from the
   86  General Revenue Fund to the Department of Children and Families
   87  for the relief of Michael Barnett, individually and as the
   88  natural parent and legal guardian of R.B., for injuries and
   89  damages sustained.
   90         Section 3. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw
   91  a warrant in favor of Michael Barnett and R.B. in the sum of
   92  $296,400 upon funds of the Department of Children and Families
   93  in the State Treasury and to pay the same out of such funds in
   94  the State Treasury.
   95         Section 4. The amount paid by the Department of Children
   96  and Families pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the
   97  amount awarded under this act are intended to provide the sole
   98  compensation for all present and future claims arising out of
   99  the factual situation described in this act which resulted in
  100  injuries and damages to Michael Barnett and R.B. The total
  101  amount paid for attorney fees relating to this claim may not
  102  exceed 25 percent of the total amount awarded under this act.
  103         Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.