Citing to the Recent Rise of High-Profile Mass Shootings, Fourth District Court of Appeal Certifies Question of Great Public Importance to Florida Supreme Court Regarding Sovereign Immunity Liability

Pursuant to Florida’s Sovereign Immunity Statute (§768.28), the State of Florida and its political subdivisions has limited liability in tort for damages. Pursuant to the statute, the state is not required to pay a claim which exceeds $300,000.00 for all claims or judgments.

Narrowly construed, this means that the cap is $300,000.00 for multiple claims arising out of the same negligent act(s) committed by the state agency. However, the Fourth District Court of Appeal recently held that a broader reading of the statute could allow a per injury limitation.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal heard argument on the state entities’ Motion to Certify a Question of Great Public Importance to the Supreme Court regarding the sovereign liability. In the underlying claim, a negligence action was filed in Palm Beach County against the Department of Children and Families by the father/guardian of four children killed and one child injured by their mother’s boyfriend. The Complaint alleged that the department breached its duties to the children, resulting in their death and injury.

With the question being whether damages are capped at $300,000.00 for the claims of all the children or $300,000.00 per claim. The Fourth District Court of Appeal granted the motion and certified the following question to the Supreme Court:

“When multiple claims of injury or death arise from the same act of negligence committed by a state agency or actor, does the limitation on the waiver of sovereign immunity in section 768.28(5), Florida Statutes, cap the liability of state agencies at $200,000.00[1] for all resulting injuries or death, as claims and judgments “arising out of the same incident or occurrence?”

The Court noted within the opinion that Florida has experienced a number of high-profile mass shootings, some of which have led to negligence against the state agencies.

The Supreme Court has not accepted jurisdiction on this question of great public importance at this time. We will continue to follow this case and provide you with the Florida Supreme Court’s decision once rendered.

[1]           The maximum was increased in 2016 to $300,000.00. When the Complaint in Palm Beach was filed, the cap was $200,000.00.

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