Claim Bill Approved for Parents of Student Killed in School Shooting Two Decades Ago
Fourteen-year-old Jean Pierre Kamel died 21 years ago when a classmate shot him at Conniston Middle School in West Palm Beach. His parents filed a lawsuit against the Palm Beach County School Board, alleging that the district’s negligence contributed to their son’s death. The jury awarded them a $1.6 million judgment, but the school board only had to pay $200,000. That’s because of a legal concept called “sovereign immunity” and a damages cap imposed by Florida law.
Suing a Government Actor
Generally, sovereign immunity protects government actors from paying large jury awards.
Sovereign immunity is a legal concept that prevents government actors from being sued without their consent. State law waives this liability in tort actions (i.e., personal injury claims against the government) but imposes a cap on available damages.
However, there is a way that parties injured by the state can seek additional compensation. Kamel’s parents and similarly situated individuals may file a claim bill, which would require the school district or other negligent party to pay more damages.
What Is a Claim Bill?
A claim bill is legislation “that compensates a particular individual or entity for injuries or losses occasioned by the negligence or error of a public officer or agency. It is a means by which an injured party may recover damages even though the public officer or agency involved may be immune from suit. Majority approval in both chambers of the Legislature is required for passage.”
But not everyone who seeks a claim bill succeeds. And even those who do succeed don’t always receive the full amount that they requested. And often it takes years for the legislature to approve the bill. Take Kamel’s parents, for example.
Legislature Approves Claim Bill for Student’s Parents
The state legislature recently approved a claim bill awarding each of Kamel’s parents $180,000 ($360,000 total, which is in addition to the $200,000 they already received).
The parents first sought a claim bill for the entire remainder of the $1.6 million judgment in 2004. But every year that the bill failed that amount became smaller and smaller. While they agreed to accept the $360,000 in 2012, the legislature didn’t OK that award until 2018. In 2013 and 2014 the Senate president refused to consider claim bills at all, and Kamel’s parents didn’t try again until this year.
While the claim bill amount isn’t anywhere close to the original jury award, it at least acknowledges the school district’s negligence in this tragedy.
Contact Us Today
Contact a West Palm Beach personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if you have been injured in an accident caused by a city official. We will help you recover damages for your injuries and file a claim bill if necessary.
The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Tampa, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.