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Florida Supreme Court rules against families of victims in Parkland school massacre

Sept. 24, 2020
The court rules that the February 2018 shooting attack that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High should be considered a single incident.

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the Broward County School District will not have to pay more than $300,000 — the limit under state law — to each of the families and victims of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the Supreme Court’s ruling came after it weighed whether government agencies should recognize a mass shooting as more than one devastating tragedy.

Attorneys for Stoneman Douglas families and victims argued that the gunshots in the mass shooting at the Parkland high school were separate instances.

The shooter killed 17 people and wounded 17 more on Feb. 14, 2018. And many people at the school were traumatized by hearing the gunshots and fleeing for their lives. The families' attorneys argued that each plaintiff filing a claim against the school board should be able to receive up to $200,000.

But the state Supreme Court has sided with the Broward School Board; it decided that the shooting was a single incident and that the district's total liability should be capped at $300,000 to be divided among all the victims.

In a statement, Superintendent Robert Runcie said: “Today’s Florida Supreme Court ruling affirms prior court interpretations of the Sovereign Immunity Statute, which provides that a multiple gunshot incident is a single incident under the statute. It is important to remember that this decision in no way devalues the lives of those injured or killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School or the harm suffered by their families.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, whose Congressional district includes the Parkland high school, issued a statement criticizing the ruling.

"Each of the seventeen lives taken was unique," Deutch says. "The pain felt by each family is unique. Each one of the seventeen people injured will face unique challenges for the rest of their lives. And each deserves the right to pursue justice. Sadly, the Supreme Court’s decision denies them that right.”

Nikolas Cruz, charged with murder in the shootings, is still awaiting trial and faces execution if convicted.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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