The Tragedy at Punta Gorda and a Cap on Damages

By: Glen Wieland

Cap on Damages

A 73-year-old woman was participating in a voluntary citizen training class conducted by the Punta Gorda Police Department. During the simulation, she was role-playing as an officer when the real police officer shot and killed her. He was supposed to be using blanks but, apparently, his gun was loaded with real bullets. Her husband was there and witnessed it all happen.

I have to ask myself, why were they even firing blanks at citizens in a demonstration? Aren’t we taught during gun safety training that you should always assume the gun is loaded and never fire it at someone unless your life is in danger and you intend to kill? Her death was senseless, and now her husband will have to live the rest of his life without his best friend and lifelong companion — all because they were volunteering at the police department hoping to make their community a safer place.

I just celebrated my 36th wedding anniversary and cannot even imagine the horror that her husband and family are going through. You may say, “Well, he can sue the police department.” Yes, he can, but under the sovereign immunity law here in Florida, the police department will only have to pay up to the $200,000 cap on damages for her death. If that does not sound right to you, you are not alone. However, this what the law dictates. In fact, it was only just recently that our elected officials voted to raise the cap on damages from $100,000 to $200,000. This is exactly why we should never support a cap on damages under any circumstances.

Please pray for her husband and family. They surely need it.


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