The Florida Supreme Court recently addressed the state’s statutory damages cap in cases against a governmental entity or actor. The state supreme court was tasked with answering whether the governmental immunity law caps damages at $200,00 for all injuries or deaths as claims “arising out of the same incident or occurrence.” The question stems from a negligence lawsuit that a father brought against Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF).
In this case, a man shot his estranged wife and five of her children, resulting in the death of the woman and four of the children. The children’s father filed a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against DCF. He argued that the agency received several domestic disturbance calls at the residence. Further, he alleged that the agency failed to investigate the circumstances of the calls appropriately. He contends that the agency’s inadequate investigation and ultimate finding that the children were not at significant risk of harm were negligent and a breach of their nondelegable duty to protect the children. In response, the agency raised several defenses and argued that Florida statute 768.28(5) provides a limitation on the plaintiff’s available recovery.
Florida law provides a waiver to the archaic “sovereign immunity” doctrine, which provided complete protection against lawsuits against the government. The waiver allows individual parties to file tort actions against the state to recover money damages for the victim’s injury, loss of property, or death caused by the negligence or wrongful act or omission of a state actor. However, the law provides a limitation to a plaintiff’s available recovery against the state agency or actor. The state cannot be liable for a claim by one person, which exceeds $200,000 for the same incident or occurrence.
At issue in this case, is whether the multiple murders are a separate incident or arose from the same incident or occurrence. The father argued that the term applied to the husband’s crimes, and each shooting was a separate incident. However, the court examined the statute’s legislative intent and determined that the term refers to the whole event, not specific shootings. Therefore, because each shooting is under one incident or event, the damage cap applies to the man’s lawsuit.
However, the court noted that this decision does not bar the plaintiff from seeking additional compensation through the claim bill process. This process allows an individual or entity to seek additional compensation for losses they suffered because of a state office or public employee’s negligence. This process provides an avenue for a plaintiff to recover damages against a negligent state actor who might be immune from a lawsuit.
Have You Been Injured Because of a Negligent Florida Government Entity?
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries because of a negligent governmental agency, contact the attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada, P.A. The attorneys at our office have extensive experience successfully handling Florida car accidents, wrongful death claims, incidents of medical malpractice, injuries caused by defective products, and slip and fall cases on behalf of our clients. We have recovered significant amounts of compensation on behalf of our clients through our diligent preparation and legal acumen. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our team.