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New Florida Supreme Court Ruling: Jacksonville Transportation Authority Bus Drivers Protected by Sovereign Immunity

Bus drivers who work for a company owned by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority cannot be held liable beyond state caps on damages, according to a recent ruling by the Florida Supreme Court. This ruling is a result of a lawsuit a woman filed after being injured in a bus accident involving the Jacksonville Transportation Authority bus in 2005.

While this decision could save the Jacksonville Transportation Authority from having to fully compensate injured claimants, it is not good news for people who fall victim to vehicle accidents caused by Jacksonville Transportation Authority drivers. The ruling provides that, although city bus drivers technically work for a nonprofit entity, the Jax Transit Management Corporation, they are still considered state employees. Because of this, these drivers and the Jax Transit Management Corporation are protected by “sovereign immunity.”

As a result, the most a victim can collect for injuries caused by a JTA driver is $200,000.00. Plaintiffs, especially those suffering permanent injuries, would otherwise have been entitled to sue for the full amount of their losses.

The original Circuit Court ruling provided that the bus drivers were not state employees, but the Florida Supreme Court rejected that ruling, stating there is no real difference between the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the nonprofit that is responsible for running the transportation service, since the Jacksonville Transportation Authority is in control of the nonprofit.

This ruling stems from an auto accident that occurred in Jacksonville seven years ago, in which a woman was hit by a Jacksonville Transportation Authority bus on Bay Street. The woman sued the driver and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority for negligence. The recent Florida Supreme Court ruling provided the driver could not be named as a defendant because he is technically a state employee. The court ruled that under Florida law, state employees cannot be sued as individuals in cases related to their jobs.

This disappointing ruling makes it clear that in cases against the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, injured persons will need representation by attorneys experienced in the nuances of handling claims against State of Florida agencies.
Written by Elizabeth Allen
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident involving the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, please contact our Jacksonville car accident and personal injury attorneys for a no obligation evaluation of your case. We are happy to meet with you at a location that is convenient for you.