Representative Scott Plakon is trying again at a bill to get compensation of $950,000 of taxpayers’ money for a disabled woman who was raped and impregnated while staying in state care.
The new bill, HB 6501, comes on the heels of an identical one attempted in 2014 by Plakon and Sen. Darren Soto. Last year, Rep. Bruce Antone sponsored a similar bill, which also didn’t go through. This year, Plakon says he and Antone are working together on the bill.
In 2002, the woman identified in the relief bill as J.D.S., who lived at an Orlando state-supervised facility called the Strong Group Home, was raped and impregnated by Philip Strong, one of the operators of the home. The case was deemed to be the result of negligence on the part of the State of Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities.
J.D.S. gave birth in 2003, but was unable to care for the child, and so the infant was taken for adoption.
In 2012, a case between Patti R. Jarrell, as plenary guardian of J.D.S., and the State of Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, was settled for $1.15 million, with $200,000 paid to J.D.S. and the remaining $950,000 needing a “claim bill,” or a relief act, from legislature to go through, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The difficulty in passing claims bills like this one comes from the fact that sovereignty-immune laws protect government agencies from huge liability payouts. Some legislators are also reluctant to hand over taxpayer money.
Plakon is optimistic this time, though. If the state hears any claim bills, he thinks his will be one of the more important ones.
“The last year I filed it, there were no state claim bills that passed,” he said.
He said the case was of utmost importance to him because it happened in a state-run home. It only seemed fair to reimburse J.D.S., Plakon said.
“We failed at keeping her safe,” he said. “There’s no way to turn back the clock and stop the assault from happening, but we can take responsibility now and take care of her.”