Taking legal action against the government or its employees is very different than filing a lawsuit against a private person or company. Florida law shields the government and its employees under the principle of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity has its roots in English law and refers to the legal doctrine that prevents the government from being sued without its consent. Thus, the government is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution by its own citizens. Government establishments that fall into this category include schools, police departments, transportation departments, and more.
In Bergmann v. Florida Department of Transportation, Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff motorist had the right to pursue her lawsuit against the Florida Department of Transportation. This ruling reversed the lower court’s decision, which held that the plaintiff’s claim was not permitted under the principle of sovereign immunity. On appeal, the court determined that the basis of the claim was due to an operation level failure, which was not barred by sovereign immunity.
According to the plaintiff, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) created a known dangerous condition that caused an accident and the plaintiff’s resulting injuries. The complaint alleged that government employees were aware of the potential danger but failed to remedy the problem or warn motorists of the issue. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s case, stating the claims were barred by sovereign immunity. Continue reading →