Florida Senate - 2020 (NP) SB 20 By Senator Cruz 18-00259-20 202020__ 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 legislative budget 5 request for the 2021-2022 fiscal year to compensate 6 Angela Sozzani for injuries and damages she sustained 7 as a result of the negligence of individuals and 8 entities licensed by the department; providing for the 9 satisfaction of any liens and the reversion of 10 remaining funds in the special needs trust upon Angela 11 Sozzani’s death; providing a limitation on the payment 12 of attorney fees; providing an effective date. 13 14 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani, whose date of birth is April 21, 15 2000, was in the legal custody of the Department of Children and 16 Families (formerly known as the Department of Children and 17 Family Services) and was placed in the medical foster home of 18 Ronald and Joyce Bryson on February 6, 2001, and 19 WHEREAS, Ronald and Joyce Bryson were each licensed by the 20 Department of Children and Families to provide foster care 21 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 Families to provide care for only two children, and 27 WHEREAS, on April 17, 2002, Ronald and Joyce Bryson were 28 hosting a party and allowed their two grandchildren to swim in 29 the Bryson’s swimming pool without adult supervision, and 30 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani, who was nearly 2 years of age and 31 was not being supervised while the party was occurring, wandered 32 out through an open patio door to the swimming pool and 33 subsequently fell in, nearly drowning, and 34 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani experienced a severe hypoxic 35 ischemic encephalopathy, secondary to a near drowning, and, as a 36 result, is forever dependent on receiving 24-hour medical and 37 supportive care, and 38 WHEREAS, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Angela Sozzani in 39 Pinellas County against the Department of Children and Families, 40 Ronald and Joyce Bryson, Family Continuity Program, Inc., and 41 Help a Child, Inc., and 42 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Ronald and Joyce 43 Bryson was based on each person’s failure to properly supervise 44 Angela Sozzani and failure to follow rules of the Department of 45 Children and Families, and 46 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Family Continuity 47 Program, Inc., which was the lead agency in Pinellas County 48 pursuant to former s. 409.1671, Florida Statutes, during the 49 period that Angela Sozzani was placed in the Bryson home, was 50 based on the entity’s failure to comply with rules of the 51 Department of Children and Families, failure to perform monthly 52 home visits, failure to ensure Angela Sozzani’s safety in the 53 Bryson foster home, and failure to report the licensing 54 violations that were observed in the Bryson foster home, and 55 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against Help a Child, Inc., 56 which was the private entity under contract with the Department 57 of Children and Families to oversee the operation of the medical 58 foster care program through which the Brysons were licensed, was 59 based on the entity’s failure to properly oversee and manage the 60 Bryson foster home, failure to train Ronald and Joyce Bryson, 61 failure to comply with rules of the Department of Children and 62 Families, and failure to report the licensing violations that 63 were observed in the Bryson foster home, and 64 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani’s claim against the Department of 65 Children and Families was based on the department’s failure to 66 follow its own operating procedures and guidelines with respect 67 to the licensure of the Bryson foster home, which the department 68 knew or should have known would be a dangerous environment to 69 all children, including Angela Sozzani, and 70 WHEREAS, as a disabled person, Angela Sozzani is in need of 71 funds necessary for her care, and 72 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani continues to need 24-hour medical 73 care and treatment as a result of the actions giving rise to 74 this claim, and 75 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani and Family Continuity Program, 76 Inc., and Help a Child, Inc., have previously reached a 77 settlement for the limits of each entity’s available insurance, 78 and 79 WHEREAS, pursuant to s. 409.175(15), Florida Statutes, any 80 person, including Ronald and Joyce Bryson, who owns or operates 81 a family foster home for the Department of Children and Families 82 is provided coverage through the Division of Risk Management of 83 the Department of Financial Services, as provided in ss. 284.38 84 and 284.385, Florida Statutes, and 85 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani and Ronald and Joyce Bryson have 86 reached a settlement, and 87 WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Families previously 88 agreed to tender $100,000 on behalf of Ronald and Joyce Bryson, 89 pursuant to s. 409.175(15), Florida Statutes, to compensate 90 Angela Sozzani for damages and provide a basis for this claim 91 bill, and 92 WHEREAS, a special needs trust has been established for the 93 exclusive benefit and use of Angela Sozzani, and 94 WHEREAS, the net settlement proceeds from each defendant 95 will be deposited into the special needs trust, and 96 WHEREAS, Angela Sozzani is currently eligible for and 97 receiving Medicaid, which is funding her placement, treatment, 98 and care costs, and 99 WHEREAS, if Medicaid does not provide any medically 100 necessary and appropriate health care services, as determined by 101 Angela Sozzani’s treatment team, such services will be paid for 102 using assets from the special needs trust, and 103 WHEREAS, at the time that the original settlements were 104 entered in 2009, it was unknown how long Angela Sozzani would 105 live, as estimates then ranged anywhere from 5 to 25 additional 106 years, but she is now approaching 21 years of age, and it is now 107 estimated that Angela Sozzani will live another 20 to 25 years, 108 and 109 WHEREAS, the Department of Children and Families has agreed 110 to request funds for treatment to provide for Angela Sozzani’s 111 increased placement costs and medical care and treatment not 112 funded by Medicaid, and 113 WHEREAS, upon the death of Angela Sozzani, any proceeds 114 remaining in her special needs trust shall first be used to 115 satisfy the Medicaid lien, together with any additional amounts 116 owed pursuant to the lien, and the remainder shall revert to the 117 General Revenue Fund, NOW, THEREFORE, 118 119 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 120 121 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 122 found and declared to be true. 123 Section 2. The Department of Children and Families shall 124 include in its annual legislative budget request for the 2021 125 2022 fiscal year a request for $7,265,420.40 to fund the special 126 needs trust of Angela Sozzani, to be used for Angela Sozzani’s 127 placement costs and medical care and treatment which are not 128 covered by Medicaid. 129 Section 3. Upon the death of Angela Sozzani, any proceeds 130 remaining in her special needs trust shall first be used to 131 satisfy the Medicaid lien, together with any additional amounts 132 owed pursuant to the lien, and the remainder shall revert to the 133 General Revenue Fund. 134 Section 4. The total amount paid for attorney fees relating 135 to this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded 136 under this act. 137 Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.