Give an example of a Florida tort that a plaintiff might bring against an administrative agency in Florida. Please discuss what damages that the plaintiff might be entitled to.
Assignment: Read Chapter 11.
Chapter 11: Accountability Through Liability.
Because administrative agencies are a body of government, the same laws apply to them when being sued as if you are suing the government directly. Thus, governments claim “Sovereign Immunity” in some cases as a defense to the lawsuit. Sovereign immunity is the legal theory that says government are immune from civil lawsuits. However, the federal government has enacted the Federal Torts Claims Act which allows individuals to sue in certain situations.
Although the Federal Torts Claims Act provides for waiver of sovereign immunity as a defense to civil litigation, it is replete with exceptions and other limitations.
Executive functions, intentional torts, discretionary functions, not within scope of employment, and public duty doctrine, are some of the exceptions to the Federal Torts Claims Act.
Most states also have statutes that permit government to be sued without claiming sovereign immunity as a defense. Florida is such a state, however, even though you can bring suit against the government in certain circumstances, damages are always limited. In Florida, a party can recover an amount not to exceed $200,000.00 per person, and not to exceed $300,000.00 per claim. Should the case be tried and a verdict returned that is greater than $200,000.00, the plaintiff must file a “Claims Bill” and have the matter heard before the Florida Legislature to demonstrate why a cap of $200,000.00 was inadequate in their particular case.
In addition, punitive damages may not generally be assessed against the government. The exception to punitive damages is found in bringing a Section 1983 claim. Section 1983 claims are based upon the government’s violation of a person’s individual civil rights. These cases are mostly seen in the context of law enforcement violations such as false arrest, unlawful searches and seizures, and most frequently, excessive force cases.
Juries are not limited by a damages cap in Section 1983 cases and value the case based upon the egregious nature of the act and the harm done. It is not uncommon to see jury verdicts in the millions of dollars for high-profile cases such as the Rodney King case.
Keep in mind that all civil litigation against the government, no matter how egregious the violation is, must be brought by an injured party or parties. Unless a party files suit, the government is not obligated to reimburse the injured party for any damages, even though the matter may likely be criminal in nature.
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