Florida Statutes Section 768.28 partially waives a governmental entity’s sovereign immunity protections. However, the waiver only applies in cases stemming from a governmental entity’s operational functions and not discretionary planning-level functions. Recently, an appeals court issued a decision addressing a negligence claim involving the government’s discretionary actions.
A plaintiff filed an amended complaint against a Florida town about injuries their minor child suffered while riding their bicycle. The child was riding a bike on a path along a street when they approached a dumpster blocking the path. The child left the bike path and entered the street to avoid the obstruction. A driver struck the child while he was traveling down the street. In response to the plaintiff’s claim, the county moved to dismiss the case based on sovereign immunity.
On appeal, the court reasoned that the law entitles the defendant to sovereign immunity because the plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the county was negligent in its discretionary planning-level functions. Florida law provides that sovereign immunity protects governmental entities for their discretionary functions. Discretionary functions include quasi-legislative decisions, policy-making, and judgmental governmental functions. On the other hand, sovereign immunity does not apply to operational functions such as decisions that implement policy. As such, plaintiffs wishing to overcome sovereign immunity must allege negligent acts “at an operational level.”
The plaintiff’s allegation implicated the county’s discretionary planning functions in this case. Specifically, they claimed that the country failed to “assure that traffic was redirected” and “assure the use of traffic control devices.” Additionally, they claimed that the county’s negligent supervision led to the accident. However, Florida’s Supreme Court previously held that traffic control methods and devices fall under discretionary decision-making. Regarding the plaintiff’s second allegation, the court cited a Florida decision where the court found that resource allocation is a policy decision. Therefore, a county’s decision to enforce compliance also falls under discretionary planning-level functions. Finally, the court found that the defendant’s decision to allocate resources was discretionary. Ultimately, the court reversed the lower court’s decision and found in favor of the county.
This case highlights the importance of every stage of an injury vicitm’s claim. An attorney is a critical resource in ensuring that a plaintiff’s complaint meets the state’s various complex personal injury laws.
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