Yesterday, a Jacksonville Transit Authority bus struck and killed a man shortly after he disembarked. After the man exited the bus, the driver accelerated before returning the wheels to a straight position. Because the wheels were turned sharply to the right, the bus lurched forward to the right. As a result, the bus ran into the passenger, a fence, two signs and a tree. The man was taken to Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
According to Jacksonville Transit Authority records, the bus driver had four previous accidents while on the job. After the first accident in 2001, the driver received a reprimand and a seven-day suspension. She also had to undergo remedial training twice, once after a passenger was hit by the bus’ wheelchair ramp, and again after hitting a pole at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station. The driver is currently on administrative leave while the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office and JTA investigate the accident. With so many accidents, we have to wonder why this driver was still on the road.
The City of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority are entitled to limited sovereign immunity. The doctrine of sovereign immunity stems from centuries old legal principle that the government (or king) should be immune from suit. The Florida Legislature enacted a limited exception allowing for suit against the state and its municipalities in an amount not to exceed $100,000 per person and $200,000.00 in the aggregate. In some intstances, a claims bill can be brought to the Florida Legislature seeking additional funds.
Despite the low levels of these caps, we have sucessfully sued Florida municipalities, including the City of Jacksonville for, among other things: causing automobile accidents, failing to maintain roadways and for premises liability.
Written by Elizabeth Allen
If you have questions about sovereign immunity or Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, contact our lawyers in Jacksonville for a free consultation. If we accept your case, you will not be charged unless we recover damages on your behalf.