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Florida Fourth DCA rules in wrongful death case that corporate private contractor providing security services for Broward County bus terminal was not entitled to absolute sovereign immunity, finding that absolute sovereign immunity under Fla. Stat. § 768.28(9) applies only to individuals

On May 4, 2022, in Naso v. Hall and G4S Secure Solutions (USA) Inc., No. 4D21-1521, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed a trial court ruling in a wrongful death case which had granted the defendant company absolute sovereign immunity as an agent of the state of Florida under Fla. Stat. 768.28(9). The plaintiff was the personal representative of the estate of a decedent who died from injuries sustained in a Broward County bus terminal when he was attacked by another visitor to the terminal. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s employee, who was working under a contract between the defendant and the County to provide overnight guards for the terminal, was negligent in not preventing the incident. The Fourth DCA concluded that while the defendant was in fact acting as an agent of the State, the trial court erred in granting the defendant absolute immunity, ruling that the defendant was instead entitled to limited sovereign immunity under Fla. Stat. § 768.28(5). The Fourth DCA distinguished Stoll v. Noel, 694 So. 2d 701, 703 (Fla. 1997), in which the Florida Supreme Court found that physicians were agents of the state and thus entitled to absolute sovereign immunity under section 768.28(9), on the basis that Stoll involved individuals and not a corporation as in this case (although the Court noted that absolute immunity would apply to the security guard employed by the corporate defendant). Fla. Stat. § 768.28(5) provides that the state and its agencies and subdivisions shall be liable for tort claims, but caps liability at $200,000 per claimant and $300,000 per incident or occurrence.