A Florida District Court issued an opinion addressing whether a School Board is liable for injuries a child suffered while walking to her bus stop. The case arose when a car hit the child while crossing the road to reach her school bus stop. In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the School Board (School) filed a motion for summary judgment asserting sovereign immunity. The trial court denied the motion, and the School appealed.
Sovereign or governmental immunity is a legal concept that protects federal and state governments from certain civil lawsuits. Under Florida law, individuals may commence a tort claim against the government if their employee’s actions caused the plaintiff’s damages. However, the statute only allows these cases in certain situations and imposes strict notice requirements and provides limitations to the damages one can recover against the government.
Typically, governmental entities may be liable if they create a “known, dangerous condition” that may not be readily apparent, and they have knowledge of the presence of individuals likely to suffer injuries. In those cases, the governmental entity has a duty to warn those who might suffer injuries or avert the danger. However, Florida courts have explained that the duty only applies in cases where the condition is “so serious and so inconspicuous” that it essentially amounts to a trap.