Florida’s Limited Waiver of Sovereign Immunity


The doctrine of sovereign immunity, found In Florida’s state constitution, generally prevents citizens from bringing a lawsuit against the State of Florida, state agencies, the executive department, the legislature, the judicial branch, city and county municipalities and their agencies, and corporations acting as instrumentalities or agents of the state.

It is a doctrine that dates back long before the United States was established and was born out of the notion that “a King can do no wrong” and, as such, cannot be sued.

Florida’s Constitution and Florida Statutes § 768.28, however, carve out an exception to this doctrine which waives the state government’s sovereign immunity in tort actions.

Meaning an individual or entity can bring suit against the state, or any of its agencies or subdivisions, for damages when the individual or entity has been injured or experienced loss to property, including personal injury and wrongful death, due to the negligence or wrongful acts of a government employee, when that employee is acting within the scope of their employment.

Florida’s waiver of sovereign immunity for tort actions has several restrictions, however, including the amount that may be recovered from the state in such actions. Florida Statute § 768.28 limits any recovery amount to $200,000.00 in instances where a tort lawsuit is brought against a single state government entity and $300,000.00 in instances where a tort lawsuit is brought against more than one state government entity.

Any amount above the limitations set forth in Florida Statute § 768.28 requires petitioning the Florida legislature, which is a complicated process that is unlikely to be successful. The Statute further prevents a Plaintiff from recovering punitive damages or pre-judgment interest, which is otherwise available in tort actions against non-governmental entities.

In addition to the limitation on the amount that may be recovered, there are notice requirements that must be strictly followed before a lawsuit can be filed against a state agency which, if not complied with, can result in the dismissal of the lawsuit and prevent any recovery.

Any individual or entity wishing to bring suit against a state governmental agency must present a written claim to the agency it wishes to sue, as well as the Department of Financial Services. Said written notice must be received by both the agency being sued and the Department of Financial Services within three (3) years after the cause of action accrues.

The agency and Department of Financial Services are then provided 180 days to investigate a claim and either provide a claimant with a settlement offer or denial. If no response is provided by either the agency or the Department of Financial Services within the 180 investigative periods, the claim is considered to have been denied, and a suit may be filed on day 181.

Due to the complexity of tort litigation involving the State of Florida, its agencies, and subdivisions, you should seek the counsel of an experienced attorney if you have been injured by a state employee or governmental entity.

Hughes Law attorneys are experienced in dealing with such matters and, as such, can help you to recover the full amount you may be owed under the law. If you need to discuss sovereign immunity with an attorney, please contact us today and ask to speak with Ciera.