More than a year after the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, the lawsuits and other various legal actions filed by the families and survivors have been winding their way through the courts. The most recent step forward occurred in early April of 2019 when 26 families and survivors placed legal actions on the grounds of negligence against the Broward County Sherriff’s Department, Stoneman Douglas High School, and a variety of other defendants. However, their suits will be delayed as the state of Florida and other governmental agencies attempt to work out the complex web of legal liability from the tragic event.
A compensation fund for the victims was originally discussed, but it appears to have lost momentum in the Florida legislature. The current legislative session comes to an end on May 3rd, and it is extremely unlikely that the fund will be discussed and passed in the time remaining. Lawyers for the victims and school board officials are casting blame over the failure of the compensation bill to pass, while legislators point to the already overloaded schedule and the issues involved in taxpayer compensation for the tragedy.
Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court is examining the question of whether the Parkland shooting should be considered, from the legal point of view, as one large shooting or as a series of small ones. This is a critical distinction, as the insurance companies would pay the survivors and their families approximately eleven times more compensation if it is seen as a number of individual shootings. The Florida Supreme Court’s decision will likely be foundational to all subsequent suits and challenges.
The coming lawsuits represent the survivors of ten individuals who were murdered on February 14, 2018, and twelve survivors who sustained physical wounds. Some legal actions cover more than one victim, while others represent groups. The Stoneman Douglas school has retained a lobbying firm to advocate for the taxpayer-funded victims’ fund, and they claim that their actions to secure this compensation demonstrate good faith on their part. The $160 million dollar fund, if passed, would provide more compensation than the insurance companies would alone, but in order to draw from it, the plaintiffs would have to agree to drop their legal cases. With the legislature likely to adjourn before passing a bill enacting this fund, the survivors and families face the possibility of another year in legal limbo.