Suing the State: Sovereign Immunity and the FIU Bridge Collapse
In today’s litigious society, filing a lawsuit against another person or business is relatively easy and inexpensive. But what if it’s the government you want to sue?
It is possible that liability falls on the shoulders of the powers-that-be. For example, a rundown section of a city sidewalk could cause a person to trip and fall, a city bus could hit a pedestrian or a law enforcement officer could hurt an innocent person. In such instances, an individual can sue a government agency.
This could also be the case with the devastating bridge collapse at Florida International University (FIU). A government entity could be to blame as more is revealed about the cause of the catastrophe.
If FIU or a Florida state agency is at fault for the 950-ton pedestrian bridge coming down, the victims and their families will be able to seek damages against them.
Unfortunately, suing the government is difficult. It’s also far less financially rewarding than a suit against a private company. In Florida, a lawsuit against the state can even be dismissed entirely if very specific rules aren’t followed. Statutes exist to protect them.
Laws protecting ruling powers date back centuries and the practice is known as sovereign immunity. They are based upon the premise that “the king can do no wrong.” Here in the Sunshine State, Florida Statute 768.28 protects its agencies.
First, a government agency has a 3-year statute of limitations. This is one year shorter than in a general negligence lawsuit. In layman’s terms, you have three years, not four, to file a claim against the state.
The statute then grants the government power to rule whether a lawsuit can even be filed. After your claim has been made, the state decides whether or not to deny it. Only if the claim is denied (or ignored) can a lawsuit against the state proceed.
Let’s say your lawsuit does move forward. Sovereign immunity caps the amount at which the state can be held responsible. Pursuant to Florida law, state agencies along with its cities and counties can only be held liable up to $200,000. There is a possibility of claiming an addition $100,000 for dependents, but that’s it.
If you or someone you know is a victim of government negligence or has a potential claim against the State, contact the experienced attorneys of The Ticktin Law Group for a complimentary consultation. You can also contact our attorneys if you have any questions regarding sovereign immunity or negligence in the state of Florida.