On Friday, March 23, Governor Rick Scott signed CS/HB 6509, a claims bill that directs the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to pay more than $5 million awarded by a Florida jury to C.M.H., a victim of sexual abuse by a child in foster care. This marks the largest known recovery in Florida for one child who was emotionally and sexually abused against a governmental defendant, DCF. Children’s rights attorney and Talenfeld Law Founder Howard Talenfeld served as co-counsel for C.M.H.
The bill is the result of a verdict and judgment against DCF on behalf of C.M.H., who was sexually assaulted at age nine by an 11-year-old foster child (“J.W.”) that DCF had placed at the home without a safety plan.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2006 on the family’s behalf against DCF and its case management subcontractors. The jury found C.M.H. had $10 million in damages but the judgment was only entered for $5 million against DCF because the jury also found that the parents were 50 percent at fault. DCF had removed J.W., a ten-year-old child, from his natural parents due to allegations of abuse and neglect in May 2002 and placed him with the parents of C.M.H., then eight.
C.M.H. did not disclose the assault to his parents until 2005, just before J.W. was removed from the home. In court, C.M.H.’s father testified at trial that if he had known J.W., the attacker, had himself been sexually assaulted, he would not have permitted him to stay in their home. He was not aware of his terrible history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.
Even the Defense expert, Dr. Stephen Alexander, agreed that C.M.H. suffered from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of the sexual assault.