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What is sovereign immunity in Florida?

Sovereign Immunity: "The King can do no wrong."

Sovereign immunity is a legal principal that dates back to ancient times. It comes from the idea that "the King can do no wrong" and could not be sued. Sovereign immunity is still very much alive and well. As a result, you can't sue the government unless you have specific permission to do so. This principle is reflected in the Florida Constitution which states that suits may be filed against the state only as permitted by law. Florida law provides for a limited waiver of sovereign immunity which permits suits against the state under certain circumstances.

Sovereign immunity applies not only to "the state", as that term is generally understood, but also to agencies of the state and private entities performing what are essentially governmental services. Generally speaking, the state can be sued for breach of contract and for torts (negligence and intentional wrongdoing). However, there are specific procedures which must be followed in order to sue the state, particularly when suing the state for a tort claim. The Florida Tort Claims Act sets forth this procedure. Most importantly, the Florida Tort Claims Act requires a claimant to send a notice to the government within 3 years from the date of the claim. It may be necessary to send this notice to multiple governmental agencies. It is important to note that the 3 year deadline to serve the notice is shorter than the 4 four year statute of limitations to bring a tort action. The claim will be barred if the notices are not timely sent.

Although Florida Law provides for a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, the amount of money which can be recovered from the state by an individual claimant in a tort action is limited to $200,000. There are exceptions to this cap when there is an insurance policy exceeding the $200,000 cap. In the absence of an insurance policy exceeding the $200,000 cap, a claimant may pursue what is called a "claims bill". This is essentially an application to the state legislature to pass a law allowing the state to pay a claim in excess of the $200,000 cap. It is extremely difficult to get a claims bill passed in the legislature.

I have experience bringing claims against the state and state agencies. I welcome the opportunity to discuss any sovereign immunity related claim you may have. To learn more, please visit HelpForTheHurt.com.

Paul R. Cavonis
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Injury Law & Trial Attorney with Over 24 Years Experience
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