Under the common law a person injured by the negligent acts of governmental employees could not sue either the governmental agency or the governmental employee for the civil damages created by governmental negligence. This ancient prohibition against suing your government is known as sovereign immunity. The legal justification traditionally offered for this prohibition is the protection of the public treasury and by extension the taxpayers, from the adverse financial consequences of civil judgments.

In 1979, Florida enacted a comprehensive piece of legislation that allowed the state , its agencies, sub divisions and departments to be sued for civil wrongs that if committed by private parties, would enable an injury victim to sue the non – public sector defendant . At the same time, however , the state has imposed financial limitations and other restrictions on claims against the state that are not contained in civil claims against private parties. These limitations and requirements are discussed later in this section.

Essentially, a governmental agency may be sued if the person is injured by governmental negligence as it carries out proprietary activities . Examples of these suit eligible proprietary activities include bus crashes , hazardous conditions in public parks that harm invitees, improperly maintained public roadways and medical malpractice committed in a government operated hospital.. On the other hand , activities that are carried out only by governmental agencies, such as building safety inspections , building permit issuance air traffic control and generally omissions by law enforcement ,,such as failing to apprehend a criminal suspect , are immune from suit. Also, only breach of ministerial duties , such as failing to properly maintain playground equipment, subject the governmental agency
to suit . Policy decisions, often called discretionary functions, such as budgeting decisions , are immune from suit. An example differentiating between ministerial duties and discretionary or planning level decisions is that the government may be sued for negligently failing to maintain the roadway but may not be sued for improperly designing the roadway.

Here are some of the significant limitations imposed on one who sues his or her government. The amount one may recover against the state of Florida for an incident of negligence is Two – Hundred Thousand Dollars. This cap may be exceeded only by the rarely successful process known as a legislative claims bill. As the name suggests, only a specific act of the Florida legislature in favor of a specific tort victim will permit a claimant to collect more than two – hundred thousand dollars from the government. Another limitation on suing the government is the prohibition of suing the governmental employee. Generally, both the private employer , as principal, and its employee , as agent, may be sued for the same incident. An example is presented by a private bus company and its driver at fault for causing a crash. In contrast , only the employing governmental agency and not the governmental employee may be sued for injuries caused by the negligence of the governmental agent committed while the employee is in the course and scope of his employment. The law immunizes the employee from claims for carelessness, unless the employee acted outside the course and scope of the employment or acted wilfully and wantonly. In either of the two circumstances, the governmental agency cannot be sued. As such, the injury victim’s lawyer usually alleges that the harm occurred while the governmental agent is in the course and scope of the employment in order to be able to collect on any settlement or civil judgment against the government.

A claimant seeking compensation from the state must provide both the involved governmental agency and usually , the Chief Financial Officer of the State of Florida, with written notification of the claim for money damages as the first step in perfecting his or her rights against to sue the government. The notification must identify the claimant , provide a brief description of the incident and it must furnish the claimant’s , place of birth , date of birth and social security number . Significantly, this notification must be delivered within three years of the date of the incident. The failure of the claimant to timely furnish a statutorily compliant letter is almost always fatal to the claim, irrespective of the facts and losses of the incident. Successful claims against the government require meticulous attention to the statute’s procedural requirements.

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