Senate Appropriations Committee schedules vote on sovereign immunity bill

Law scales and cash money on table concept photo
House Speaker Paul Renner said he supports increasing the amount that can be recovered under the caps.

In a sign that a closely watched legislative battle over sovereign immunity caps may not be over, the Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled a vote on SB 472 on Thursday.

The panel released the 15-bill agenda for the five-hour meeting later in the week. Filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur, SB 472 is the companion measure to HB 569, filed by Rep. Fiona McFarland.

The House bill’s fate appeared to have been jeopardized after House Judiciary Committee Chair Tommy Gregory tried combining the caps bill with his legislation (HB 1179) requiring the disclosure of third-party groups that help finance lawsuits.

Though he chairs the committee, Gregory was unable to garner the necessary support from committee members and was forced to defer a vote.

House Speaker Paul Renner said he supports the legislation that would double the current amount of $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident to $400,000 per person and $600,000 per incident.

“I support something on sovereign immunity,” Renner said late last week. “I think that the government shouldn’t have a right to hurt your kid in a negligent action, and there’s no recovery, whereas a private sector company can hurt your kid and pay reasonable compensation.”

The sovereign immunity bills were the top tracked pieces of legislation by LobbyTools subscribers at the midway point of the 2024 Session.

Florida law allows tort lawsuits against the state and its subdivisions for damages that result from the negligence of government employees acting in the scope of their employment.

Still, it limits payment of judgments to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident. Harmed persons who seek to recover amounts in excess of these limits can be paid up to insurance limits. They can also request that the Legislature enact a claim bill to appropriate the remainder of their court-awarded judgment.

The bills do more than double the amount of damages that can be collected under the caps. The bills also authorize subdivisions of the state to settle out of their coffers claims that exceed the caps.

According to a legislative staff analysis, in 2023 there were 16 claims bills totaling about $54.1 million. Ultimately, half of those bills passed and l;awmakers appropriated $20.1 million for damages associated with the claims.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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