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Florida Supreme Court rules that Florida’s sovereign immunity cap on damages applies collectively to all victims in mass shooting because all injuries occurred as the result of the same incident or occurrence

On September 24, 2020, in Barnett v. State of Florida, Department of Financial Services, et al., No SC19-87, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that multiple individual tort claims against a state entity arising from a mass shooting arose from the “same incident or occurrence” under Florida’s sovereign immunity statute, Fla. Stat. 768.28, and are therefore subject to the aggregate cap for damages paid by the State (now $300,000, but at the time of the incident in this case, $200,000). The case involved a 2010 incident in Riviera Beach in which a woman and four of her children were killed by her estranged husband. The State of Florida was included as a defendant in a subsequent wrongful death lawsuit because the Department of Children and Families allegedly had not sufficiently addressed previous complaints about the husband.

Also on September 24, 2020, in Guttenberg, et al. v. The School Board of Broward County, No. SC19-487, the Court applied the same reasoning and made the same holding to limit any recovery against the Broward County School Board by the victims of the mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School to an aggregate amount of $300,000.

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