The Florida Supreme Court said Wednesday it will take up a case stemming from the 2008 death of University of Central Florida football player Ereck Plancher, who collapsed after a series of conditioning drills. An Orange County jury awarded $10 million to Plancher's family, but the 5th District Court of Appeal last year said the UCF Athletics Association, Inc., could not be required to pay the amount because of state sovereign-immunity laws. Those laws shield governmental agencies and affiliated organizations from having to pay more than $200,000 in damages.
The UCF Athletics Association is a direct-support organization that operates the football program. Attorneys for the family asked the Supreme Court to decide the case, arguing that the UCF Athletics Association should not receive the legal protections.
"The Florida Legislature did not expressly extend sovereign immunity to all university direct support organizations, but the Fifth District's decision does so,'' the family's attorneys wrote in a brief filed in October. "The decision automatically grants sovereign immunity to more than 80 existing university direct support organizations
merely by virtue of their statutory and corporate structures – and further paves the way for the creation of new university DSOs who will likewise enjoy sovereign immunity free from any requirement of actual state control." The Supreme Court issued an order Wednesday saying it would take up the case, a move known as accepting "jurisdiction." The order indicates Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry backed the decision, while Justice Charles Canady dissented. Justices R. Fred Lewis and Ricky Polston are not mentioned in the order.
Story via the News Service of Florida