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Ezequiel Lugo Obtains Defense Verdict in Fifth DCA

October 23, 2020

Ezequiel Lugo obtained an appellate opinion affirming a defense summary judgment based on absolute sovereign immunity in the Fifth District Court of Appeal.

This case involved a “trip and fall” where the plaintiff claimed she fell because of a speed bump in the walkway to a flea market operated by a county fair association. The plaintiff sued the county fair association and the person who ran the flea market and alleged both were negligent because of the placement of the speed bump. The issues on appeal were: (1) whether the county fair association was entitled to sovereign immunity; (2) whether the placement of the speed bump was a planning-level decision; and (3) whether the person who ran the flea market was entitled to sovereign immunity. 

 

The trial court ruled that the fair association and the person who ran the flea marked were entitled to sovereign immunity. The trial court also ruled that the placement of the speed bump was a planning-level decision entitled to absolute immunity. For these reasons, the trial court entered summary judgment for the defendants.

The plaintiff appealed the summary judgment. The plaintiff claimed that the county fair association was not entitled to sovereign immunity because it was not acting as an instrumentality of the state when it operated the flea market. The plaintiff also argued the person who ran the flea market was not entitled to sovereign immunity because the defense had not shown that she was an agent of the county fair association. The plaintiff further contended that absolute sovereign immunity did not apply because government entities that own property owe business invitees the same “operational level” duty as a private landowner.

Ezequiel Lugo argued that there was no reversible error because county fair associations are “equal in dignity” as the Florida State Fair, which is entitled to sovereign immunity. Ezequiel also argued that decisions whether to upgrade or improve capital improvements are planning-level functions that are immune from tort liability. And Ezequiel noted that the person who ran the flea market was an agent of the county fair association, so she was entitled to immunity from civil proceedings.

The appellate court found no reversible error and issued a per curiam affirmance. 

The case is Worley v. Citrus County Fair Association, Inc., No. 5D19-2092, 2020 WL 6018830 (Fla. 5th DCA Oct. 6, 2020).

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