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Florida First DCA rejects essential government functions test in determining defendant’s sovereign immunity status

On April 21, 2020, in Operations Management International, Inc. v. Johnson, No. 1D19-3393, the First DCA affirmed a trial court’s denial of the defendant company’s motion for summary judgment in a civil case. The motion had been premised on the position that the company was entitled to sovereign immunity, either because is was an acting as an agent of the City of Live Oak or was acting under a contract under which it was controlled by the City. Both the trial court and the First DCA rejected the defendant’s argument that an “essential government functions test” should be applied to determine whether the defendant was acting as an agent of the City. Both courts also agreed that the question whether the defendant was controlled by the City was a disputed issue of material fact that could not be resolved by summary judgment. The First DCA noted that it had recently reaffirmed its position that under agency theory, it is the right of control rather than the relationship between the parties that determines whether an agency relationship exists. See Blue v. Weinert, 284 So. 3d 1176, 1177–78 (Fla. 1st DCA 2019) (citing Nazworth v. Swire Fla., Inc., 486 So. 2d 637, 638 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986)).

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