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SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY


(STATUTES)

Disclaimer:  This is part of the 2012 version of Florida Statutes and it is offered for general information purposes.  The statutes on this site should not be relied on without reviewing your legal situation with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer and making sure you are using the appropriate version of the statute for your case.  The provisions applicable to your potential claim may or may not be the version that was in effect at the time of the incident because some changes to statutes are retroactive and some changes are not.  Other statutes and other case law interpreting or applying these statutes may also apply to your case. 

(The information on this site applies to Florida only)

768.28 Waiver of sovereign immunity in tort actions; recovery limits; limitation on attorney fees; statute of limitations; exclusions; indemnification; risk management programs.—

(1) In accordance with s. 13, Art. X of the State Constitution, the state, for itself and for its agencies or subdivisions, hereby waives sovereign immunity for liability for torts, but only to the extent specified in this act. Actions at law against the state or any of its agencies or subdivisions to recover damages in tort for money damages against the state or its agencies or subdivisions for injury or loss of property, personal injury, or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the agency or subdivision while acting within the scope of the employee’s office or employment under circumstances in which the state or such agency or subdivision, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant, in accordance with the general laws of this state, may be prosecuted subject to the limitations specified in this act. Any such action may be brought in the county where the property in litigation is located or, if the affected agency or subdivision has an office in such county for the transaction of its customary business, where the cause of action accrued. However, any such action against a state university board of trustees shall be brought in the county in which that university’s main campus is located or in the county in which the cause of action accrued if the university maintains therein a substantial presence for the transaction of its customary business.

(2) As used in this act, “state agencies or subdivisions” include the executive departments, the Legislature, the judicial branch (including public defenders), and the independent establishments of the state, including state university boards of trustees; counties and municipalities; and corporations primarily acting as instrumentalities or agencies of the state, counties, or municipalities, including the Florida Space Authority.

(3) Except for a municipality and the Florida Space Authority, the affected agency or subdivision may, at its discretion, request the assistance of the Department of Financial Services in the consideration, adjustment, and settlement of any claim under this act.

(4) Subject to the provisions of this section, any state agency or subdivision shall have the right to appeal any award, compromise, settlement, or determination to the court of appropriate jurisdiction.

(5) The state and its agencies and subdivisions shall be liable for tort claims in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances, but liability shall not include punitive damages or interest for the period before judgment. Neither the state nor its agencies or subdivisions shall be liable to pay a claim or a judgment by any one person which exceeds the sum of $200,000 or any claim or judgment, or portions thereof, which, when totaled with all other claims or judgments paid by the state or its agencies or subdivisions arising out of the same incident or occurrence, exceeds the sum of $300,000. However, a judgment or judgments may be claimed and rendered in excess of these amounts and may be settled and paid pursuant to this act up to $200,000 or $300,000, as the case may be; and that portion of the judgment that exceeds these amounts may be reported to the Legislature, but may be paid in part or in whole only by further act of the Legislature. Notwithstanding the limited waiver of sovereign immunity provided herein, the state or an agency or subdivision thereof may agree, within the limits of insurance coverage provided, to settle a claim made or a judgment rendered against it without further action by the Legislature, but the state or agency or subdivision thereof shall not be deemed to have waived any defense of sovereign immunity or to have increased the limits of its liability as a result of its obtaining insurance coverage for tortious acts in excess of the $200,000 or $300,000 waiver provided above. The limitations of liability set forth in this subsection shall apply to the state and its agencies and subdivisions whether or not the state or its agencies or subdivisions possessed sovereign immunity before July 1, 1974.

(6)(a) An action may not be instituted on a claim against the state or one of its agencies or subdivisions unless the claimant presents the claim in writing to the appropriate agency, and also, except as to any claim against a municipality or the Florida Space Authority, presents such claim in writing to the Department of Financial Services, within 3 years after such claim accrues and the Department of Financial Services or the appropriate agency denies the claim in writing; except that, if:

1. Such claim is for contribution pursuant to s. 768.31, it must be so presented within 6 months after the judgment against the tortfeasor seeking contribution has become final by lapse of time for appeal or after appellate review or, if there is no such judgment, within 6 months after the tortfeasor seeking contribution has either discharged the common liability by payment or agreed, while the action is pending against her or him, to discharge the common liability; or

2. Such action is for wrongful death, the claimant must present the claim in writing to the Department of Financial Services within 2 years after the claim accrues.

(b) For purposes of this section, the requirements of notice to the agency and denial of the claim pursuant to paragraph (a) are conditions precedent to maintaining an action but shall not be deemed to be elements of the cause of action and shall not affect the date on which the cause of action accrues.

(c) The claimant shall also provide to the agency the claimant’s date and place of birth and social security number if the claimant is an individual, or a federal identification number if the claimant is not an individual. The claimant shall also state the case style, tribunal, the nature and amount of all adjudicated penalties, fines, fees, victim restitution fund, and other judgments in excess of $200, whether imposed by a civil, criminal, or administrative tribunal, owed by the claimant to the state, its agency, officer or subdivision. If there exists no prior adjudicated unpaid claim in excess of $200, the claimant shall so state.

(d) For purposes of this section, complete, accurate, and timely compliance with the requirements of paragraph (c) shall occur prior to settlement payment, close of discovery or commencement of trial, whichever is sooner; provided the ability to plead setoff is not precluded by the delay. This setoff shall apply only against that part of the settlement or judgment payable to the claimant, minus claimant’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Incomplete or inaccurate disclosure of unpaid adjudicated claims due the state, its agency, officer, or subdivision, may be excused by the court upon a showing by the preponderance of the evidence of the claimant’s lack of knowledge of an adjudicated claim and reasonable inquiry by, or on behalf of, the claimant to obtain the information from public records. Unless the appropriate agency had actual notice of the information required to be disclosed by paragraph (c) in time to assert a setoff, an unexcused failure to disclose shall, upon hearing and order of court, cause the claimant to be liable for double the original undisclosed judgment and, upon further motion, the court shall enter judgment for the agency in that amount. Except as provided otherwise in this subsection, the failure of the Department of Financial Services or the appropriate agency to make final disposition of a claim within 6 months after it is filed shall be deemed a final denial of the claim for purposes of this section. For purposes of this subsection, in medical malpractice actions and in wrongful death actions, the failure of the Department of Financial Services or the appropriate agency to make final disposition of a claim within 90 days after it is filed shall be deemed a final denial of the claim. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice actions and wrongful death actions is tolled for the period of time taken by the Department of Financial Services or the appropriate agency to deny the claim. The provisions of this subsection do not apply to such claims as may be asserted by counterclaim pursuant to s. 768.14.

(7) In actions brought pursuant to this section, process shall be served upon the head of the agency concerned and also, except as to a defendant municipality or the Florida Space Authority, upon the Department of Financial Services; and the department or the agency concerned shall have 30 days within which to plead thereto.

(8) No attorney may charge, demand, receive, or collect, for services rendered, fees in excess of 25 percent of any judgment or settlement.

(9)(a) No officer, employee, or agent of the state or of any of its subdivisions shall be held personally liable in tort or named as a party defendant in any action for any injury or damage suffered as a result of any act, event, or omission of action in the scope of her or his employment or function, unless such officer, employee, or agent acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or property. However, such officer, employee, or agent shall be considered an adverse witness in a tort action for any injury or damage suffered as a result of any act, event, or omission of action in the scope of her or his employment or function. The exclusive remedy for injury or damage suffered as a result of an act, event, or omission of an officer, employee, or agent of the state or any of its subdivisions or constitutional officers shall be by action against the governmental entity, or the head of such entity in her or his official capacity, or the constitutional officer of which the officer, employee, or agent is an employee, unless such act or omission was committed in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or property. The state or its subdivisions shall not be liable in tort for the acts or omissions of an officer, employee, or agent committed while acting outside the course and scope of her or his employment or committed in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or property.

(b) As used in this subsection, the term:

1. “Employee” includes any volunteer firefighter.

2. “Officer, employee, or agent” includes, but is not limited to, any health care provider when providing services pursuant to s. 766.1115; any nonprofit independent college or university located and chartered in this state which owns or operates an accredited medical school, and its employees or agents, when providing patient services pursuant to paragraph (10)(f); and any public defender or her or his employee or agent, including, among others, an assistant public defender and an investigator.

(c) For purposes of the waiver of sovereign immunity only, a member of the Florida National Guard is not acting within the scope of state employment when performing duty under the provisions of Title 10 or Title 32 of the United States Code or other applicable federal law; and neither the state nor any individual may be named in any action under this chapter arising from the performance of such federal duty.

(d) The employing agency of a law enforcement officer as defined in s. 943.10 is not liable for injury, death, or property damage effected or caused by a person fleeing from a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle if:

1. The pursuit is conducted in a manner that does not involve conduct by the officer which is so reckless or wanting in care as to constitute disregard of human life, human rights, safety, or the property of another;

2. At the time the law enforcement officer initiates the pursuit, the officer reasonably believes that the person fleeing has committed a forcible felony as defined in s. 776.08; and

3. The pursuit is conducted by the officer pursuant to a written policy governing high-speed pursuit adopted by the employing agency. The policy must contain specific procedures concerning the proper method to initiate and terminate high-speed pursuit. The law enforcement officer must have received instructional training from the employing agency on the written policy governing high-speed pursuit.

(10)(a) Health care providers or vendors, or any of their employees or agents, that have contractually agreed to act as agents of the Department of Corrections to provide health care services to inmates of the state correctional system shall be considered agents of the State of Florida, Department of Corrections, for the purposes of this section, while acting within the scope of and pursuant to guidelines established in said contract or by rule. The contracts shall provide for the indemnification of the state by the agent for any liabilities incurred up to the limits set out in this chapter.

(b) This subsection shall not be construed as designating persons providing contracted health care services to inmates as employees or agents of the state for the purposes of chapter 440.

(c) For purposes of this section, regional poison control centers created in accordance with s. 395.1027 and coordinated and supervised under the Division of Children’s Medical Services Prevention and Intervention of the Department of Health, or any of their employees or agents, shall be considered agents of the State of Florida, Department of Health. Any contracts with poison control centers must provide, to the extent permitted by law, for the indemnification of the state by the agency for any liabilities incurred up to the limits set out in this chapter.

(d) For the purposes of this section, operators, dispatchers, and providers of security for rail services and rail facility maintenance providers in the South Florida Rail Corridor, or any of their employees or agents, performing such services under contract with and on behalf of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority or the Department of Transportation shall be considered agents of the state while acting within the scope of and pursuant to guidelines established in said contract or by rule.

(e) For purposes of this section, a professional firm that provides monitoring and inspection services of the work required for state roadway, bridge, or other transportation facility construction projects, or any of the firm’s employees performing such services, shall be considered agents of the Department of Transportation while acting within the scope of the firm’s contract with the Department of Transportation to ensure that the project is constructed in conformity with the project’s plans, specifications, and contract provisions. Any contract between the professional firm and the state, to the extent permitted by law, shall provide for the indemnification of the department for any liability, including reasonable attorney’s fees, incurred up to the limits set out in this chapter to the extent caused by the negligence of the firm or its employees. This paragraph shall not be construed as designating persons who provide monitoring and inspection services as employees or agents of the state for purposes of chapter 440. This paragraph is not applicable to the professional firm or its employees if involved in an accident while operating a motor vehicle. This paragraph is not applicable to a firm engaged by the Department of Transportation for the design or construction of a state roadway, bridge, or other transportation facility construction project or to its employees, agents, or subcontractors.

(f) For purposes of this section, any nonprofit independent college or university located and chartered in this state which owns or operates an accredited medical school, or any of its employees or agents, and which has agreed in an affiliation agreement or other contract to provide, or permit its employees or agents to provide, patient services as agents of a teaching hospital, is considered an agent of the teaching hospital while acting within the scope of and pursuant to guidelines established in the affiliation agreement or other contract. To the extent allowed by law, the contract must provide for the indemnification of the teaching hospital, up to the limits set out in this chapter, by the agent for any liability incurred which was caused by the negligence of the college or university or its employees or agents. The contract must also provide that those limited portions of the college, university, or medical school which are directly providing services pursuant to the contract and which are considered an agent of the teaching hospital for purposes of this section are deemed to be acting on behalf of a public agency as defined in s. 119.011(2).

1. For purposes of this paragraph, the term:

a. “Employee or agent” means an officer, employee, agent, or servant of a nonprofit independent college or university located and chartered in this state which owns or operates an accredited medical school, including, but not limited to, the faculty of the medical school, any health care practitioner or licensee as defined in s. 456.001 for which the college or university is vicariously liable, and the staff or administrators of the medical school.

b. “Patient services” mean:

(I) Comprehensive health care services as defined in s. 641.19, including any related administrative service, provided to patients in a teaching hospital;

(II) Training and supervision of interns, residents, and fellows providing patient services in a teaching hospital; or

(III) Training and supervision of medical students in a teaching hospital.

c. “Teaching hospital” means a teaching hospital as defined in s. 408.07 which is owned or operated by the state, a county or municipality, a public health trust, a special taxing district, a governmental entity having health care responsibilities, or a not-for-profit entity that operates such facility as an agent of the state, or a political subdivision of the state, under a lease or other contract.

2. The teaching hospital or the medical school, or its employees or agents, must provide notice to each patient, or the patient’s legal representative, that the college or university that owns or operates the medical school and the employees or agents of that college or university are acting as agents of the teaching hospital and that the exclusive remedy for injury or damage suffered as the result of any act or omission of the teaching hospital, the college or university that owns or operates the medical school, or the employees or agents of the college or university, while acting within the scope of duties pursuant to the affiliation agreement or other contract with a teaching hospital, is by commencement of an action pursuant to the provisions of this section. This notice requirement may be met by posting the notice in a place conspicuous to all persons.

3. This paragraph does not designate any employee providing contracted patient services in a teaching hospital as an employee or agent of the state for purposes of chapter 440.

(11)(a) Providers or vendors, or any of their employees or agents, that have contractually agreed to act on behalf of the state as agents of the Department of Juvenile Justice to provide services to children in need of services, families in need of services, or juvenile offenders are, solely with respect to such services, agents of the state for purposes of this section while acting within the scope of and pursuant to guidelines established in the contract or by rule. A contract must provide for the indemnification of the state by the agent for any liabilities incurred up to the limits set out in this chapter.

(b) This subsection does not designate a person who provides contracted services to juvenile offenders as an employee or agent of the state for purposes of chapter 440.

(12)(a) A health care practitioner, as defined in s. 456.001(4), who has contractually agreed to act as an agent of a state university board of trustees to provide medical services to a student athlete for participation in or as a result of intercollegiate athletics, to include team practices, training, and competitions, shall be considered an agent of the respective state university board of trustees, for the purposes of this section, while acting within the scope of and pursuant to guidelines established in that contract. The contracts shall provide for the indemnification of the state by the agent for any liabilities incurred up to the limits set out in this chapter.

(b) This subsection shall not be construed as designating persons providing contracted health care services to athletes as employees or agents of a state university board of trustees for the purposes of chapter 440.

(13) Laws allowing the state or its agencies or subdivisions to buy insurance are still in force and effect and are not restricted in any way by the terms of this act.

(14) Every claim against the state or one of its agencies or subdivisions for damages for a negligent or wrongful act or omission pursuant to this section shall be forever barred unless the civil action is commenced by filing a complaint in the court of appropriate jurisdiction within 4 years after such claim accrues; except that an action for contribution must be commenced within the limitations provided in s. 768.31(4), and an action for damages arising from medical malpractice or wrongful death must be commenced within the limitations for such actions in s. 95.11(4).

(15) No action may be brought against the state or any of its agencies or subdivisions by anyone who unlawfully participates in a riot, unlawful assembly, public demonstration, mob violence, or civil disobedience if the claim arises out of such riot, unlawful assembly, public demonstration, mob violence, or civil disobedience. Nothing in this act shall abridge traditional immunities pertaining to statements made in court.

(16)(a) The state and its agencies and subdivisions are authorized to be self-insured, to enter into risk management programs, or to purchase liability insurance for whatever coverage they may choose, or to have any combination thereof, in anticipation of any claim, judgment, and claims bill which they may be liable to pay pursuant to this section. Agencies or subdivisions, and sheriffs, that are subject to homogeneous risks may purchase insurance jointly or may join together as self-insurers to provide other means of protection against tort claims, any charter provisions or laws to the contrary notwithstanding.

(b) Claims files maintained by any risk management program administered by the state, its agencies, and its subdivisions are confidential and exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution until termination of all litigation and settlement of all claims arising out of the same incident, although portions of the claims files may remain exempt, as otherwise provided by law. Claims files records may be released to other governmental agencies upon written request and demonstration of need; such records held by the receiving agency remain confidential and exempt as provided for in this paragraph.

(c) Portions of meetings and proceedings conducted pursuant to any risk management program administered by the state, its agencies, or its subdivisions, which relate solely to the evaluation of claims filed with the risk management program or which relate solely to offers of compromise of claims filed with the risk management program are exempt from the provisions of s. 286.011 and s. 24(b), Art. I of the State Constitution. Until termination of all litigation and settlement of all claims arising out of the same incident, persons privy to discussions pertinent to the evaluation of a filed claim shall not be subject to subpoena in any administrative or civil proceeding with regard to the content of those discussions.

(d) Minutes of the meetings and proceedings of any risk management program administered by the state, its agencies, or its subdivisions, which relate solely to the evaluation of claims filed with the risk management program or which relate solely to offers of compromise of claims filed with the risk management program are exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution until termination of all litigation and settlement of all claims arising out of the same incident.

(17) This section, as amended by chapter 81-317, Laws of Florida, shall apply only to causes of actions which accrue on or after October 1, 1981.

(18) No provision of this section, or of any other section of the Florida Statutes, whether read separately or in conjunction with any other provision, shall be construed to waive the immunity of the state or any of its agencies from suit in federal court, as such immunity is guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, unless such waiver is explicitly and definitely stated to be a waiver of the immunity of the state and its agencies from suit in federal court. This subsection shall not be construed to mean that the state has at any time previously waived, by implication, its immunity, or that of any of its agencies, from suit in federal court through any statute in existence prior to June 24, 1984.

(19) Neither the state nor any agency or subdivision of the state waives any defense of sovereign immunity, or increases the limits of its liability, upon entering into a contractual relationship with another agency or subdivision of the state. Such a contract must not contain any provision that requires one party to indemnify or insure the other party for the other party’s negligence or to assume any liability for the other party’s negligence. This does not preclude a party from requiring a nongovernmental entity to provide such indemnification or insurance. The restrictions of this subsection do not prevent a regional water supply authority from indemnifying and assuming the liabilities of its member governments for obligations arising from past acts or omissions at or with property acquired from a member government by the authority and arising from the acts or omissions of the authority in performing activities contemplated by an interlocal agreement. Such indemnification may not be considered to increase or otherwise waive the limits of liability to third-party claimants established by this section.

(20) Every municipality, and any agency thereof, is authorized to undertake to indemnify those employees that are exposed to personal liability pursuant to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, 42 U.S.C.A. ss. 7401 et seq., and all rules and regulations adopted to implement that act, for acts performed within the course and scope of their employment with the municipality or its agency, including but not limited to indemnification pertaining to the holding, transfer, or disposition of allowances allocated to the municipality’s or its agency’s electric generating units, and the monitoring, submission, certification, and compliance with permits, permit applications, records, compliance plans, and reports for those units, when such acts are performed within the course and scope of their employment with the municipality or its agency. The authority to indemnify under this section covers every act by an employee when such act is performed within the course and scope of her or his employment with the municipality or its agency, but does not cover any act of willful misconduct or any intentional or knowing violation of any law by the employee. The authority to indemnify under this section includes, but is not limited to, the authority to pay any fine and provide legal representation in any action.

History.—s. 1, ch. 73-313; s. 1, ch. 74-235; ss. 1, 2, 3, ch. 77-86; s. 9, ch. 79-139; s. 1, ch. 79-253; s. 284, ch. 79-400; s. 1, ch. 80-271; ss. 1, 2, ch. 81-317; s. 1, ch. 83-44; s. 1, ch. 83-257; s. 1, ch. 84-29; s. 1, ch. 84-335; s. 21, ch. 86-183; s. 1, ch. 86-184; s. 3, ch. 87-134; s. 2, ch. 88-173; ss. 55, 61, ch. 89-300; s. 92, ch. 89-360; s. 8, ch. 90-192; s. 3, ch. 91-209; s. 112, ch. 92-33; ss. 2, 11, ch. 92-278; s. 1, ch. 93-89; s. 34, ch. 93-129; s. 1, ch. 94-76; s. 2, ch. 94-147; s. 70, ch. 94-209; s. 21, ch. 94-321; s. 428, ch. 96-406; s. 34, ch. 97-93; s. 1809, ch. 97-102; s. 4, ch. 98-402; s. 289, ch. 99-8; s. 9, ch. 2000-155; s. 97, ch. 2002-20; s. 24, ch. 2002-183; s. 2, ch. 2002-401; s. 9, ch. 2003-159; s. 1903, ch. 2003-261; s. 1, ch. 2003-290; s. 67, ch. 2003-416; s. 1, ch. 2006-234; s. 1, ch. 2010-26; s. 1, ch. 2011-113; s. 3, ch. 2011-219; s. 126, ch. 2012-184.
 


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While our firm started in Orlando and its main office is there, for many years we have handled cases throughout Florida,.  To serve our clients better  we have opened additional satellite offices in several major Florida cities.   We use these offices to meet with our clients, take depositions, and as preparation rooms when we have trials in these cities.  When advantageous to you, we will also associate with other lawyers and law firms in some areas of the state to serve you better.  If we do associate with other lawyers on your case it will be at no additional attorney fees or expense to you. 

This site contains only general background information and is not intended to constitute specific legal advice or establish an attorney/client relationship.  Laws vary from state to state and are constantly changing.   If you think you may have a case you should promptly contact a lawyer in your state with experience in handling this type of case.

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