Court Law Lawsuit

Florida Appeals Court Rejects Lawsuit Over Sexual Abuse In School

Court Law Lawsuit
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An appeals court Friday upheld a judge’s decision that rejected a lawsuit about the alleged sexual abuse of a child by a Sarasota County school employee, saying the case was filed too late.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal said a woman, identified by the initials S.S., filed a lawsuit in 2016 against the Sarasota County School Board alleging that a school employee sexually abused her child during the 2010-2011 school year at an aftercare program.

A circuit judge granted summary judgment to the school board because of a sovereign-immunity law that required the case to be filed within four years of the last act of alleged abuse.

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Sovereign-immunity laws generally are designed to help shield government agencies from lawsuits.

An attorney for S.S. pointed to another law that deals with sexual batteries against children. That law does not include a four-year time limit. But the appeals court sided with the circuit judge.

“These are hard cases,” said the 16-page decision, written by Judge Matthew Lucas and joined by Judges Patricia Kelly and Anthony Black. “If we had the power to enact public policy, we would hold that a minor child’s right to seek civil redress against an allegedly negligent employer for its agent’s sexual abuse would not be subject to a curtailed time limitation simply because the employer happens to be the government. We don’t have that power; the Legislature does.”

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