The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that will have far reaching impacts on some personal injury cases in the future. The case, Plancher v. UCSFA, made several challenges against Florida’s current statutory cap against state agencies. Before it ever got to the Florida Supreme Court, the personal injury victim’s family won a large verdict in the lower courts. But now the challenge of recovering that verdict has become even more difficult for the victim’s family.
University of Central Florida Athlete Dies
The case in question is a tragic one. In 2008, a University of Central Florida football player was participating in the team’s conditioning drills during practice when he suddenly died. The player’s surviving family filed a lawsuit against the school’s athletic association, alleging that they were negligent with how they conducted practice. The association tried to have the case thrown out before a jury could hear it, but the judge denied the motion and let it go through trial to a jury.
At trial the jury found in favor of the student athlete’s surviving family. They awarded the family a verdict of $10 million for the school’s negligence, but the association appealed. On appeal the school’s athletic association argued that they should be treated as a state agency, and therefore have their damages capped at the statutory minimum of $200,000. While the trial judge rejected this argument, the Fifth District Court of Appeals agreed. And even more importantly the Supreme Court of Florida agreed. But the high court did one favor to the family by entering the $10 million dollar judgement, with an order that the $200,000 minimum be paid.
Florida’s Statutory Cap on Damages
For personal injury cases involving a state agency, Florida has a statutory imposed cap on how much a victim can recover. No matter how much harm is caused, any victim is limited to collect $200,000. The law, found in Florida Statutes 768.28, is where Florida’s waives its sovereign immunity, and establishes how much any victim can recover in a personal injury or wrongful death suit. There are many critics of this law, claiming it is unfair to victims of state negligence, but the Florida Supreme Court consistently finds that it is constitutional. Having said that however, there is a small chance for victims as well.
Under the statutory cap law, victims with large jury awards can appeal to the state’s legislature. When a victim recovers a reward from a jury, but it exceeds the statutory cap, the victim or victim’s family can appeal to the legislature and ask them to pass a bill funding the verdict. It is a last ditch chance that can provide much needed funds to victims of negligence. In this case, since the Supreme Court entered the $10 million judgement, the family can appeal to the Florida legislature to be paid. It is a long shot considering only 11 such bills were passed last year, but it does give them a chance.
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