HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL. – In 2017, the American Tort Reform Foundation ranked Plaintiff-friendly Florida as the nation’s #1 “Judicial Hellhole.” The Sunshine State was awarded the insult for its Supreme Court’s “liability-expanding decisions and barely-contained contempt for the lawmaking authority of the legislators and the governor…”
Governor Ron DeSantis pulled Florida out of that bottomless pit such that the ATRF placed Florida on its “Watchlist” in its 2020-2021 report.
An August 27 lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County courts by the law firms Morgan and Morgan, St. Petersburg, and Filson and Penge, Sarasota, suggests that Florida’s Plaintiff attorneys are still busy looking for money under Grandma’s boxsprings where legal settlements spring forth in lieu of trials by jury.
In this case, however, the money is hiding in the defendant’s homeownership.
Amanda Gary of Wimauma, Florida was found innocent of foster parent child abuse earlier this year, after a six-week-old infant’s leg broke during a diaper change.
Fox 13 News reported on May 12 that criminal abuse charges were dropped against Gary upon hearing medical evidence.
Nonetheless, the newly filed civil lawsuit accuses Gary of breaking the child’s leg through negligence on or around September 7, 2017, although the child, known as “T.L.A.,” suffered from an undiagnosed Vitamin D deficiency.
Neither the deficiency nor any detail about how such negligence occurred, was outlined in the lawsuit. The plaintiff is Jordana Ruggiero, “T.L.A.’s” biological mother who was not previously identified.
Rick Escobar, Founding Partner of Escobar and Associates law firm in Tampa, shed light on why no details were provided in the suit.
“This is nothing more than Gary owns a house. The lawyers are trying to get money from homeowners insurance.”
But Escobar had more to say and so did Gary. Both spoke to The Free Press.
Escobar said, “The mistakes made by the Child Protection Team just make you sick…and they’re affiliated with the University of South Florida.” He continued that the criminal child abuse charges against Gary were due to “the incompetence of the personnel they employ.”
Firstly, no endocrinologist, pediatric bone specialist, or radiologist was brought in to assess “T.L.A.’s” health when she was examined for child abuse. Instead, Escobar said, to save money, the assessment task was relegated to a nurse practitioner who claimed the case involved child abuse and not a medical condition. The government reacted by filing criminal child abuse charges against Gary. Escobar said that during the hearings, however, it was proven that “T.L.A.” suffered from brittle bones, caused by an undiagnosed Vitamin D deficiency producing a metabolic bone disease.
Amanda Gary was asked by The Free Press about “T.L.A.’s” medical history as reported by the State foster care program when she was delivered to Gary’s home. Did she receive a full medical report?
“No,” she replied. “The children are supposed to come with their ‘yellow jacket’ – a folder – with their medical history, but it’s typically pretty cryptic if you get one at all. There was minimal information in ‘T.L.A.’s’ yellow jacket.”
Gary further stated, “Under Medicaid, doctors only take certain plans, so my doctor that I use took a different plan than what ‘T.L.A.’ came with. You can’t necessarily take the child to a doctor because you’re not the child’s legal guardian. So it took a caseworker to switch
‘T.L.A.” to the insurance that the pediatrician that I know and love and trust would accept. But the caseworker hadn’t switched the child’s plan, so a doctor who accepts all Medicaid cases met with the caseworker and “T.L.A.” But “T.L.A.” never got to see my doctor. I got a piece of paper stating Xantac was prescribed for reflux…there were some other issues…but to get a real exam, the child never got to see my primary doctor. I believe they are just filling out a piece of paper, covering their behinds saying ‘this baby saw a doctor, that baby saw a doctor – and that’s why I always had my own doctor.”
“T.L.A.” was pulled immediately from the hospital, Gary said, indicating she did not believe she was ever with her biological mother, Ruggiero.
Shockingly, Gary said there was no mention during her criminal hearings of how she received “T.L.A.’s” medical records and what its contents were. “There was no investigation and no explanation as to what I received in the yellow jacket, and when they filed charges against me, they hadn’t even gotten the mother’s prenatal records.”
Ruggiero’s prenatal experience while pregnant with “T.L.A.” included domestic violence committed by her children’s father , Tony Bernard Anderson, also known as “Tony Bernard Battle.”
In a Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence, Ruggiero reported she was kicked in the stomach and fell down a flight of stairs while one to two months pregnant. This reportedly occurred on December 15, 2016, which coincides with Ruggiero’s pregnancy with “T.L.A.” On April 17, 2017, Ruggiero also reported that Anderson choked her throat, refusing to allow her to leave the premise of the incident, while she was pregnant with “T.L.A.” for seven months.
Notes further indicate Anderson was prosecuted. Court records show he was arrested by Tampa Police and collectively charged in these two incidents with “False Imprisonment,” “Battery, Domestic Violence: 2nd or Subsequent Event,” “Aggravated Battery on Pregnant Female,” and “Resisting Officer Without Violence.”
Since 2016, Plaintiff Ruggiero’s encounters with law enforcement include Hillsborough County charges for DUI, cocaine and marijuana, robbery by sudden snatching, Walmart theft, and battery.
Gary lamented, “We’re going to have to hire a civil attorney and that will cost us $30,000…I wanted to come out of this as that girl advocating to make it better for foster parents and abused children, but I don’t know what comes next.” She intends to advocate for new legislation to address child protection and foster care issues, including the need for full medical and social histories on foster children.
“There’s lice, there’s scabies, this and that, but there’s also children who are terrified because of what happened to them that we don’t know about. Sometimes we get them at two o’clock in the morning. We’re just trying to pick up the pieces, trying to gather up what they need, so the social history is just as big as the medical report.”
Adam Brum, attorney for Morgan and Morgan, assisted in filing the civil suit against Gary. He could not be reached for comment.
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