Orange County Agrees To Compensate Family Of Slain Witness
It took almost four years, but Orange County and the Florida legislature finally agreed to pay compensation to the family of a witness killed by the very man he was set to testify against. The Orange County government agreed to a $300,000 settlement with the family but required passage of a claims bill by the state legislature to make it official.
The case began in 2012, a 19-year old man was set to testify against a defendant in a home invasion case against another individual under electronic monitoring by the state pending the trial. One month before trial, the defendant tracked down the victim and murdered him and shot his two roommates.
The family’s lawsuit alleged negligence by the county for its supposed failure to properly monitor the defendant prior to his trial. Court records indicated the defendant broke curfew the night of the murder and should not have been out to commit the heinous crime.
The defendant, Bessman Okafor, was arrested for murder, convicted and sentenced to death. The 30-year-old defendant was sentenced in August 2015. The two other victims shot by Okafor were shot in the head but survived their injuries.
Why are there limits on compensation from the government?
Under Florida law, civil actions against state or local government entities are subject to damage caps. Under a policy known as sovereign immunity, governmental organizations are exempt from civil penalties unless otherwise waived by the state.
Florida statute 768.28 does allow citizens to sue government entities in cases where a private person would be responsible to the claimant. However, there are limitations to compensation. The law limits verdicts and settlements to $100,000 per individual and $200,000 in compensation arising from a single incident.
For example, a single person hit by a city bus could collect up to $100,000 in compensation. However if multiple people were hurt in the same incident, they would share up to $200,000 for that one incident. To collect more than the maximum limit, plaintiffs must rely on claims bills to cover the excess.
Can plaintiff’s collect more than the maximum compensation allowed under Florida sovereign immunity laws?
Plaintiffs may collect awards or settlements greater than the $100,000 limit imposed under the law but the difference must be approved by the state legislature. The process can be arduous as state and local governments may fight the bill, alleging compensating victims appropriately may place some sort of burden on the rest of the county or state.
Furthermore, in cases where at-fault parties carry liability insurance, plaintiffs may be awarded more than the maximum $100,000/$200,000 limit if covered by insurance. Dealing with insurance companies can be a drawn out process of its own as insurance companies are not usually known for willingly dispersing compensation to victims.
Orlando personal injury lawyers
If you or a loved one was hurt by a government entity, you should contact the The Pendas Law Firm to help you collect the compensation you and your family need. Our experienced and dedicated personal injury lawyers serve clients in Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.