TALLAHASSEE, Fla., June 13, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- After 14 years of fighting for a client raped and impregnated while in the care of a state-run group home, leading plaintiffs' firm Morgan & Morgan PA announces the client has finally gotten some justice for what she has had to endure. Recently, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law providing the Orlando woman about $1 million in relief.
Morgan & Morgan attorney Alexander Clem represented the client, a woman suffering from epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation, who was raped and impregnated in 2002 while in the care of the Strong Group Home in Orlando. The attack was perpetrated by the home's co-owner, Phillip Strong.
"For 14 years, we were the only ones fighting for our client, J.D.S., who was the victim of a broken system that allowed a predator to put her through unspeakable trauma," attorney Alexander Clem said. "J.D.S. has profound developmental disabilities, including cerebral palsy and autism. She cannot speak or defend herself against sexual abuse. The criminal justice system refused to prosecute the man who raped her. Her only potential for justice was with our firm and the civil justice system."
"In the end, we are pleased that she is finally getting some relief after all of this time, and hope that our leaders will do everything they can to fix a system that allows the most vulnerable in our state to be preyed upon," Clem said.
A Long but Worthwhile Fight
Morgan & Morgan attorney Clem's work in court paved the way for this bill to be introduced and signed into law this month, finally resolving a years-long legal battle to obtain justice for a woman who had been in group homes since she was four years old.
Clem helped obtain a $1.15 million settlement with the state in 2012. However, in order for the victim to receive the money awarded to her, the Florida government had to sign off on it, as the settlement exceeded $200,000. And this month, that bill was finally passed.
In Florida, when a party sues a state agency like the Dept. for Children and Families that oversaw J.D.S., before any compensation can be collected, that party has to prevail on the underlying case just like any civil case; and, then, the party must file and pursue a "claims bill" in the Florida Legislature, passing both chambers before getting the Governor's approval.
Morgan & Morgan had been awaiting legislative action for five years, during which time political machinations upheld a final resolution of J.D.S.'s case. Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon and Republican state Sen. David Simmons were the bill sponsors this year.
Today, J.D.S. is in her mid-30s, lives in a different group home in Orlando and is doing well. The caregivers are only women, in an all-female group home.
The net proceeds will be used according to a care plan overseen by professionals who work with the developmentally disabled. The payout will allow for substantial enhancement of the services she is already receiving from the state. Clem's goal, he said, is to make sure that her quality of life is improved. This isn't about the firm getting a big payday.
"I am humbly and truly honored to have had the opportunity to represent her in this matter," Clem said. "In our profession, one lawyer can stand up for one person and get justice. Now that is gratifying."
The case is captioned as Jane Pronovost, as plenary guardian of J.D.S., an incapacitated person, v. State of Florida et al, case number 06-CA-955 (DIVISION 40), in the Circuit Court, Ninth Judicial Circuit, in and for Orange County, Florida.
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Morgan & Morgan, a national plaintiff's law firm fighting for the people, not the powerful, has recovered more than $4 billion for more than 200,000 clients. The firm has more than 300 attorneys in 39 offices in 10 states. With the support of nearly 2,000 employees, the firm's attorneys represent clients in a wide range of practice areas — from personal injury, workers' compensation, and medical malpractice cases to labor and employment, mesothelioma, and product liability lawsuits to national mass torts and class actions.
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