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Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Bloglines - Florida Supreme Court: Vicarious Liability and Sovereign Immunity
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Abstract Appeal The First Web Log Devoted To Florida Law and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
If you've been looking for a hornbook quality discussion of vicarious liability and comparative negligence, check out the Florida Supreme Court's decision in this case. The court held that vicariously liable parties which stand in the shoes of an active tortfeasor may have their damages recovery reduced through comparative negligence principles.
The court also reached a significant holding regarding sovereign immunity.
Whereas sovereign immunity prevents state entities from being liable for breach of a contract unless the legislature specifically authorized them to enter that contract, the court held that sovereign immunity offers no such protection to municipalities. The court was not clear about whether this follows from the broad language of article VIII, section 2(b) of the Florida Constitution or the 2004->Ch0166->Section%20021#0166.021">Municipal Home Rule Powers Act, but, either way, the result seems clear: municipalities can enter written contracts as they wish unless the law prohibits them from doing so.
Based on this rationale, the court upheld the validity of an indemnification agreement by which a muncipal agency agreed, without limits, to indemnify CSX for liability and attorney's fees incurred in connection with a municipal easement across CSX's railroad tracks.
If you represent municipalities, or if you contract with them, that's a mighty important holding.
Justice Cantero authored a concurrence that explored the historical basis for treating the state and its municipalities different for purposes of sovereign immunity.