February 5, 2020
Say that you are walking through a state park and fall into an uncovered hole in the ground, or slip on the slick floor of a state-owned building in Vero Beach. Such an accident could potentially produce injuries that could lead to inordinate expenses due to medical bills, recuperative costs and time away from work. The solution may seem to be to take legal action against the state in order to be compensated for said expenses. Yet are you allowed to sue the government?
The principle of sovereign immunity seems to limit this. This idea arose from old English common law that viewed that the king could do no wrong. Thus, civil action could not be taken against him. It was later extended to government, which seemingly eliminated the opportunity to hold a federal or state agency civilly liable for any negligent action.
However, according to Section 768.28 of the Florida state statutes, the state has waived its right to sovereign immunity. What this means is that in any incident of negligence where you might be able to hold a private citizen liable for any injuries you sustained, you can pursue legal action against a state agency when that agency is the negligent party. The law limits the potential financial compensation that may be awarded from such action, however, to $200,000 paid to you individually, or $300,000 paid in response to a series of claims arising from the same incident. Any further amount would need to be approved by the state legislature.
You should also know that just as you can treat a state agency the same as you would a private party in a negligence case, that agency can respond as a private party might. That could include disputing our claim or appealing away award you receive.