Which Hospitals in Florida Have Sovereign Immunity?

Government immune hospitals

Florida has strict sovereign immunity laws that protect certain hospitals from negligence and malpractice lawsuits. Sovereign immunity means the government owns or operates the hospital, so it is ‘immune’ from a civil lawsuit.

However, litigants in Florida are not completely barred from suing a sovereign immune hospital. Instead, Section 13 of Article X of the Florida Constitution permits claims and lawsuits to be brought against state run hospitals. Just because the constitution allows Floridians to sue government hospitals, this does not mean they make it easy to do so.

Florida Law on Suing a Hospital that has Sovereign Immunity

Florida law limits the damages one can obtain from a sovereign immunity medical malpractice lawsuit. Further, the law caps the attorneys fees at 25%. For both of these reasons, it is challenging to find a Florida lawyer to take a case versus a sovereign immune hospital.

The relevant statute states as follows, “Neither the state nor its agencies or subdivisions shall be liable to pay a claim or a judgment by any one person which exceeds the sum of $200,000 or any claim or judgment, or portion thereof, which, when totaled with all other claims or judgments paid by the state or its agencies or subdivisions arising out of the same incident or occurrence, exceeds the sum of $300,000.” § 768.28(5), Fla. Stat. 

Sovereign Immune Florida Hospitals

The following hospitals in Florida have sovereign immunity:

  • UF Health Hospitals are sovereign immune.
  • Shands Hospital has sovereign immunity.
  • University of Miami Health hospitals enjoy sovereign immunity from malpractice lawsuits.
  • Jackson Hospitals have sovereign immunity in injury and wrongful death cases.
  • USF Health are sovereign immune hospitals.
  • Lee Health is a sovereign immune hospital chain.
  • Memorial Hospital is a government owned hospital that has sovereign immunity.
  • Broward Health hospitals are sovereign immune and operated by the North Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners, a seven-member district board appointed by the Governor.
  • Sarasota Memorial Hospital enjoys sovereign immunity.
  • Halifax Health is a government run hospital system.
  • All VA Hospitals and VA facilities have sovereign immunity because they are run by a state agency.

Available Damages to a Litigant Suing a Florida Hospital that Has Sovereign Immunity

Currently, Florida has capped a Plaintiff’s ability to recover against a sovereign entity. The amount of damages that can be recovered in a case against a state run hospital is limited to $200,000. A claims bill can be filed to seek compensation beyond the sovereign immunity limit, however, these are rarely successful.

Recognizing the inherent unfairness in Florida’s sovereign immunity law, our legislature has recently considered amending the law and allowing sovereign Florida hospitals to be held accountable for more damages. Some legislators support increasing the the capped damages to $300,000, while others have proposed amending the law to allow a Plaintiff to recover $1 million from a government run hospital.

However, as of this post, the law remains unchanged and an injured or wrongfully killed hospital patient can only recover $200,000 from a sovereign Florida hospital.

Common Injuries that Occur at Florida Hospitals Resulting in Litigation

Florida hospitals are supposed to be a place where patients go to get better. Unfortunately, hospital errors consistently rank in the top 5 causes of death in Americans.

When patient care is neglected and malpractice occurs, the aggrieved family may investigate a Florida hospital malpractice lawsuit. As discussed above, it can be hard to find a Florida medical malpractice attorney if you are trying to sue a sovereign immune hospital. This is because of the capped damages and the reduced attorneys’ fee.

The following are frequent injuries arising in litigation against Florida hospitals.

  • patient falls
  • surgical errors
  • wrongful / early discharge
  • failing to diagnose a stroke
  • nursing errors
  • bed sores and pressure ulcers

Conclusion: Finding a Lawyer to Sue a Sovereign Immune Hospital is Difficult

With a cap on damages and a cap on attorneys fees, it is almost economically impossible for a private law firm to take on a case versus a sovereign hospital. Do not take this personally. This may be the reason your case is being rejected by other attorneys. Our firm has sadly rejected numerous cases against sovereign hospitals that we would have otherwise taken, had the injury occurred at a private hospital.

Our hospital neglect attorneys routinely sue hospitals for bed sores and preventable falls. However, rarely if ever do we take on sovereign immunity hospital cases. The government effectively bars us from accepting cases against sovereign hospitals.

Hopefully, the Florida legislature will do the right thing and change the unfair law on sovereign immunity. Until then, Florida’s sovereign immune hospitals get a license to kill patients with impunity.

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