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CFO Sink Takes Legal Action to Support Minouche Noel and Family

7/24/2007

CONTACT: Tara Klimek or Brannon Jordan
(850) 413-2842
 
TALLAHASSEE—Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today filed a complaint asking for a declaratory judgment from the Leon County Circuit Court regarding “The Noel Relief Act,” or Chapter 2007-261, Laws of Florida (House Bill 593).  At issue are competing claims for the $8.5 million appropriated by the Florida Legislature to Minouche Noel and her family, which are in direct conflict with the Legislature’s intended payment of the claims bill. 
 
As the state’s constitutional officer with the duty to settle accounts of the State of Florida and draw warrants to pay the state’s financial obligations, CFO Sink is asking the Leon County Circuit Court to affirm the intent of the Legislature.  Specifically, the court will determine the rights of all parties to the $8.5 million claim so that CFO Sink may issue swift payment to the Noels.  Additionally, CFO Sink is asking the Leon County Circuit Court to create a special needs trust with a court-appointed trustee, without which, she is legally unable to pay Noel for her damages as the Legislature intended. 
 
CFO Sink also filed today an amicus curiae motion, Latin for “friend of the court,” with the Broward County Circuit Court in support of Minouche Noel and her family.  CFO Sink asked the court to deny the motions by Minouche Noel’s attorneys to reopen her case, originally filed in 1990, and to file a lien against the Noels.  A hearing on the motions filed by Minouche Noel’s attorneys is scheduled for Monday, July 30, 2007. 
 
“We’ve asked the Broward and Leon County Circuit Courts to support our motions and resolve this matter swiftly,” said CFO Sink, who leads the Department of Financial Services.  “My heart goes out to Ms. Minouche Noel and her family, who have suffered far too long after an incident of medical malpractice almost two decades ago.”
 
At six months of age, Minouche Noel was left paralyzed after a medical malpractice incident at a public medical facility in 1989.  It wasn’t until 1999 that Minouche Noel was awarded $8.5 million for injuries and damages.  Under Florida law, any court judgment exceeding $200,000 in a negligent claims case against the government can only be paid by an act of the Legislature.
 
During the 2007 Legislative Session, the Legislature passed a claims bill to compensate Minouche Noel and her family for their losses, $6.5 million in a special needs trust fund for Minouche Noel and $2 million for her parents.  The Legislature specifically limited the payment of attorneys’ fees to $1,074,667 and lobbyists’ fees to $85,000.  Recently, however, the Noel’s lawyers have taken legal action in effort to increase their compensation beyond that which was specified under the claims bill.  The Noels’ attorneys are seeking an additional $676,000 beyond that which was authorized by the Legislature, which would be taken out of the damages awarded to the parents. 
 
Last week, Senate President Ken Pruitt and House Speaker Marco Rubio sent CFO Sink a letter of legislative intent asking her to take legal action to protect the interests of the Noels. 
 
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. CFO Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.