Florida Senate - 2023                              (NP)    SB 90
       By Senator DiCeglie
       18-00355-23                                             202390__
    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 them for
    5         injuries and damages sustained as a result of the
    6         negligence of the Department of Children and Families;
    7         providing a limitation on the payment of attorney
    8         fees; providing an effective date.
   10         WHEREAS, in September 2010, Patrick Dell entered the
   11  Riviera Beach residence of his estranged wife, Natasha Whyte
   12  Dell, where he fatally shot her and four of her children and
   13  severely wounded a fifth child by shooting him in the neck, and
   14         WHEREAS, Dell committed suicide shortly after exiting the
   15  residence, and
   16         WHEREAS, several months before the shootings, on January
   17  26, 2010, the abuse hotline of the Department of Children and
   18  Families received a phone call about an incident that occurred
   19  in December 2009, and
   20         WHEREAS, according to the police report, while Whyte-Dell
   21  was visiting a friend, Dell charged at and threatened Whyte-Dell
   22  with a knife, verbally threatened to kill her, and flattened all
   23  four tires on her vehicle, and
   24         WHEREAS, later that same morning, Dell was arrested for
   25  aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and criminal mischief,
   26  and
   27         WHEREAS, over the course of the following month, the
   28  department conducted an investigation but subsequently closed
   29  the case file on February 25, 2010, after concluding that the
   30  children were not at significant risk of harm, and
   31         WHEREAS, a history of threats of violence existed before
   32  Dell’s shootings of Whyte-Dell and her children, and
   33         WHEREAS, the Riviera Beach Police Department had responded
   34  to the Whyte-Dell home 34 times in the 4 years preceding the day
   35  of the shootings, and
   36         WHEREAS, 11 of those police responses were for domestic
   37  violence disturbances, and
   38         WHEREAS, the department knew or had reason to know of the
   39  threats and had numerous opportunities to remove the children
   40  from that dangerous environment, yet did not act and closed
   41  their case file, and
   42         WHEREAS, the department’s southeast regional director
   43  acknowledged that the department could have and should have done
   44  more for the family and admitted that the investigation was
   45  “subpar,” and
   46         WHEREAS, the department’s child protective investigator
   47  assigned to the case failed to follow policies and procedures,
   48  and
   49         WHEREAS, the investigator himself had been accused of
   50  domestic violence and was facing pending domestic violence
   51  charges, and
   52         WHEREAS, because of the investigator’s errors and
   53  omissions, the department failed to follow up on warning signs
   54  that any reasonable investigation should have evaluated,
   55  analyzed, and acted upon, especially after discovering the
   56  investigator’s inherent conflict of interest, and
   57         WHEREAS, the department failed to perform any secondary
   58  review or reinvestigation after the investigator’s pending
   59  domestic violence charges were made public, and
   60         WHEREAS, in an appeal to the Supreme Court of Florida, the
   61  court held that the Whyte-Dell family shootings are to be
   62  treated as a single incident or occurrence, and
   63         WHEREAS, Michael Barnett, individually and as the natural
   64  parent and legal guardian of R.B., and as the personal
   65  representative of the estates of D.B., D.B., and B.B., entered
   66  into a settlement agreement and release and a consent final
   67  judgment with the State of Florida and the Department of
   68  Children and Families, and
   69         WHEREAS, per the settlement agreement and release, Michael
   70  Barnett and R.B. agree to accept the total amount of $160,000,
   71  including attorney fees and costs, and
   72         WHEREAS, through the consent final judgment, judgment was
   73  entered in favor of Michael Barnett and R.B. and against the
   74  department in the amount of $296,400, NOW, THEREFORE,
   76  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   78         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
   79  found and declared to be true.
   80         Section 2. The sum of $296,400 is appropriated from the
   81  General Revenue Fund to the Department of Children and Families
   82  for the relief of Michael Barnett, individually and as the
   83  natural parent and legal guardian of R.B., for injuries and
   84  damages sustained.
   85         Section 3. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw
   86  a warrant in favor of Michael Barnett and R.B. in the sum of
   87  $296,400 upon funds of the Department of Children and Families
   88  in the State Treasury and to pay the same out of such funds in
   89  the State Treasury.
   90         Section 4. The amount paid by the Department of Children
   91  and Families pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the
   92  amount awarded under this act are intended to provide the sole
   93  compensation for all present and future claims arising out of
   94  the factual situation described in this act which resulted in
   95  injuries and damages to Michael Barnett and R.B. The total
   96  amount paid for attorney fees relating to this claim may not
   97  exceed 25 percent of the total amount awarded under this act.
   98         Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.