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Florida Fourth DCA rules that Broward County Sheriff and detention personnel were not protected by sovereign immunity for “operational level” actions allegedly resulting in harm to Broward County Jail inmate

On May 5, 2021, in Williams v. Tony et al., No. 4D20-1342, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the lawsuit of a plaintiff who claimed he was the victim of negligence and excessive force by Broward County Sheriff’s Office detention officers at the Broward County Jail. The Fourth DCA concluded that alleged misconduct by the Sheriffand his detention officers involved “operational level” activities not protected by sovereign immunity. The Third DCA cited Hutchinson v. Miller, 548 So. 2d 883, 885-886 (Fla. 5th DCA 1989); Harris v. Monds, 696 So. 2d 446, 446 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997) (holding that the common law duty of reasonable care by the correction officers charged with inmate supervision “is an operational level function not protected by sovereign immunity”); and Ferguson v. Perry, 593 So. 2d 273, 278 (Fla. 5th DCA 1992) (holding that “[t]he alleged negligent failure to comply with the duty to provide medical care to care to [person in custody] is an operational level activity for which the sheriff is not immune from suit”). The Third DCA focused on the Sheriff’s liability for operational level activities, not subject to sovereign immunity, implicitly distinguishing this sort of conduct from the setting of policies, which presumably would be protected by sovereign immunity.

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