Over three decades ago, Florida law was changed to let cities like Jacksonville and its subsidiaries such as the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA), the Jacksonville Port Authority (JPA), and the Jacksonville Airport Authority (JAA), get away with paying far less than deserved by the people seriously injured or killed by city negligence. After a jury verdict for a client with a serious, permanent brain injury caused by City of Jacksonville negligence, Wayne Hogan, representing the injured, moved to seek justice by asking the Supreme Court of Florida to declare unconstitutional the municipal liability cap on the amount of damages; however, a split Florida Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and kept the lawsuit limit in place. Cauley v. City of Jacksonville, 403 So.2d 379 (Fla. 1981).
Now, through the diligent efforts of the Florida Justice Association, the amount recoverable for the people injured by government negligence has been increased for car accidents and other accidents on or after October 1, 2011. For example, if a negligent bus driver had caused a Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) bus to hit a pedestrian and result in wrongful death before October 1, 2011, the limit of recovery would have been $100,000 per Wrongful Death Act survivor, with a maximum recovery of $200,000 for the incident, while, under the amended statute, in negligence cases against Florida cities, or against the State, the increased amount is $200,000 per claimant with a maximum of $300,000 per incident. To recover damage amounts above those limits, it remains necessary to present a claims bill to the legislature which has discretion whether to order payment.
This change in the law, while far less than it ought to be, will allow recovery by more of the people injured by governmental negligence.
When the U.S. Government’s negligence causes injury, there is a different system; there is no cap on the amount of damages recoverable, although there is no trial by jury.