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First DCA affirms Panama City Beach’s dismissal from negligence case based on sovereign immunity

On August 9, 2021, in Wooden v. City of Panama City Beach, Florida, No. 1D20-1277, the Florida First DCA issued a per curiam affirmance of a trial court decision that the defendant Panama City Beach enjoyed sovereign immunity from a plaintiff’s negligence claim. The First DCA cited Dep’t of Transp. v. Neilson, 419 So. 2d 1071, 1073 (Fla. 1982) (holding that “failure to install traffic control devices and the failure to upgrade an existing road or intersection, as well as the decision to build a road or roads with a particular alignment, are judgmental, planning-level functions and absolute immunity attaches”); Payne v. Broward County, 461 So. 2d 63, 66 (Fla. 1984) (holding that as a matter of law, “hidden trap” exception to immunity not triggered in case where girl killed by pickup truck as she crossed two-lane road after sidewalk ended mid-block a short distance from a controlled intersection, because “the danger created was no greater than that existing anywhere it is possible to cross a road in midblock” and there is no duty to warn pedestrians of “readily apparent” dangers like “crossing the street in midblock”); Com. Carrier Corp. v. Indian River County, 371 So. 2d 1010, 1020 (Fla. 1979) (explaining that “certain policymaking, planning or judgmental governmental functions cannot be the subject of traditional tort liability”); and Payne, 461 So. 2d at 65 (explaining that state and local governmental entities are always immune for a decision to build or change a road, even when “unwise,” in order “to prevent judicial intrusion into planning-level decisions”).