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Florida Approves Cap in Wrongful Death Case

The Florida Supreme Court recently upheld the statutory cap on damages that a government entity can be held liable for in a sovereign immunity waiver case, including those for wrongful death. The case in question involved the death of a football player at a state university during practice, and his parents’ wrongful death lawsuit against the school.

Facts of the Case

In the case of Enock Plancher v. UCF Athletics Association, Inc., Ereck Plancher passed away during football practice in 2008 at the University of Central Florida. His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school and their athletics association for negligence, claiming that the staff and trainers failed to properly supervise their players during practice.

In a pretrial motion, the UCFAA argued that they were entitled to sovereign immunity under Florida law because they were under the control of a government entity; however, that motion was denied. At trial, the Plancher parents were awarded $10 million by a jury for the wrongful death of their son and the UCFAA appealed. The appellate court agreed with the UCFAA and ruled that the organization was under sovereign immunity and thus the judgment could only be for $200,000. The Planchers then appealed.

Ruling of the Court

Fla. Stat. 768.28 allows for a waiver of sovereign immunity where state government entities can be sued by individuals for various causes of action, including wrongful death due to negligence. However, the same section of the law places a cap of damages at $200,000 per person, per entity. This cap remains the same regardless of whether the case is for personal injury or wrongful death.

In the Plancher case, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the cap on government entity damages but still allowed for full compensation for the parents. The Supreme Court ruled that the UCFAA does meet the standard for sovereign immunity as a state university. However, they disagreed with the appellate court’s ruling that the judgment should be altered to reflect the cap of $200,000. The justices ruled that the UCFAA is only liable for the $200,000 statutory cap on damages, but the total judgment should stand at $10 million.

The same section of law also addressed how claimants can receive their full compensation for a case when the statutory cap falls below their judgment. Known as a “claims bill,” the Planchers must seek recovery for the remaining $9.8 million through the Florida Legislature. This requires seeking out a Florida legislator to sponsor and present a bill that requests the remaining judgment from the state. Unfortunately, claims bills are incredibly difficult to pass in the state legislature and even more difficult to collect, but it does gives the Plancher parents an opportunity to get the compensation that they deserve.

Contact Our Lawyers Now

The experienced lawyers at The Pendas Law Firm have the knowledge and determination to get you the justice that you deserve for the wrongful death of your loved one. Call the office or contact us today at our offices in Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, or West Palm Beach for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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