Parents Win Suit After Son Killed By Bus In Motorcycle Crash
The parents of a 33-year-old man won their lawsuit against Miami-Dade County after they proved that a bus driver illegally moved into an intersection causing a fatal chain-reaction crash that took the life of their son. The incident occurred in 2019 and despite winning their case, they have yet to receive a dime. This is largely because when you sue the County, you are suing the government, and the government protects itself with sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity makes it impossible to receive more than $200,000 in a lawsuit against the government unless you petition the legislature to pass a bill that would authorize a higher dollar amount. In this case, the parents would receive the full amount of $1.25 million if the legislature passes the claims bill.
Understanding claims bills
Sovereign immunity protects the government from excessive damages awards. You can recover up to $200,000 if your case is successful, but beyond that, you must beg the legislature to pay you the full amount that the jury awarded. Paperwork is filed with the legislature which then votes on the bill. If the claims bill is authorized, you can then receive more than $200,000. The biggest problem is that it takes years to authorize the claims bill. In fact, 3 years isn’t as bad as it sounds. With the passage of the bill, the family will be able to recover the $1 million balance.
Understanding sovereign immunity
Suing the government is much trickier than suing a private company or individual. Government officials cannot generally be held liable for negligence. In most cases, they cannot be held liable for something they did not do. In this case, the bus driver violated traffic law by pulling his vehicle into the intersection and causing an accident. Hence, the government was able to be sued for the violation of its own standards.
This is also why the Parkland parents are struggling to win their suit against various government agencies that failed to intercede on their children’s behalf. It is assumed that police officers and public officials have broad discretion when it comes to policy decisions and other matters that affect the public. In other words, a police officer would have discretion over whether or not he interceded on the public’s behalf. That is why an embattled resources officer will likely not face personal liability for failing to engage with the shooter. The government has no duty of care to intercede in an active shooter situation. We’re seeing the same thing with Uvalde now.
On the other hand, if a police department has a policy and that policy is violated, then a lawsuit can be filed. This is why use of force lawsuits are much more likely than failure to intercede lawsuits. The Supreme Court has ruled that failure to intercede lawsuits are not pursuable against the government. But if a government employee violates a policy or a law, then the lawsuit can move forward.
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