Still recovering from the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, more families reacted angrily Friday to limits on how much money the school district expects to pay victims.
An insurer for the Broward School District is sending letters to the families of children who were killed, wounded or traumatized, informing them that the district’s liability under state law is capped at $300,000 — for all of the families together.
Gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 and wounded 17 in the rampage on Valentine’s Day, firing into classrooms with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died in the attack, said his daughter’s life was worth far more than the cap allows.
“I’m livid mad,” Guttenberg told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Friday. “If this gets treated as one incident and you divide it by 17” — and then add the injured students — that “puts the value of my daughter around $10,000. I have a real problem with that.”
Florida’s sovereign immunity laws say public bodies don’t have to pay more than $200,000 in a claim by a single person or $300,000 for an incident involving multiple people. Victims seeking more have to get approval from the state Legislature through a claims bill, which can take years to pass.
School district spokeswoman Nadine Drew said the district is not trying to limit payouts. “It is simply stating the law of the State of Florida that has been put in place by the Legislature.”
The district will not say which families have sent notices that they intend to sue, but several said Friday that they have received responses from the district’s insurance company, Johns Eastern Co.
The parents of Joaquin “Guac” Oliver, who died in the shooting, stood outside the Broward School District building Friday with their attorneys and spoke about the cap on damages, which Manuel Oliver called “absurd.”
“I wasn’t even worried about compensation until yesterday,” he said. “I was worried about the future of this generation like Joaquin’s that is out there. This is a new battle for me.”
The lawyer for Daniela Menescal, a student who was injured, filed a petition in Broward court this week asking a judge to review whether the school district can treat the shooting as one occurrence involving multiple parties.
The attorney, Patrick Lawlor, said he has two other clients who got similar letters from the insurance company.
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