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Eric Green v. Calvin Cottrell, et al., Case No. 1D14-4052 (1st DCA)

In Green, the First District affirmed the trial court’s order dismissing the underlying suit as barred by the statute of limitations. The plaintiff, a pro se inmate, brought suit against four correctional officers alleging their negligence enabled other inmates to attack him. His complaint included claims of negligence and federal claims of deprivation of rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The trial court dismissed the complaint on several grounds. On appeal, the First District commented on only one argument – that the plaintiff’s state law claims were barred by the one year statute of limitations period outlined in section 95.11(5)(g), Florida Statutes.

The plaintiff argued that his claims were subject to a four year statute of limitations outlined in section 768.28(14), Florida Statutes. The limitations period outlined in section 768.28(14) applies to every claim against the state or one of its agencies or subdivisions for damages for a negligent or wrongful act or omission. That section was enacted in 1973. Years later, in 1996, the legislature enacted a more specific one-year statute of limitations in section 95.11(5)(g), which applies to actions brought by or on behalf of a prisoner relating to the conditions of the prisoner’s confinement. The First District ruled that the limitations period in section 95.11(5)(g) is more specific, as it applies only to actions brought by or on behalf of prisoners regarding their confinement, whereas as section 768.28(14) applies to any claims against the state or one of its agencies or subdivisions for damages for a negligent or wrongful act or omissions. In addition, the plaintiff indisputably met the statutory definition of a prisoner, and his negligence claims against the corrections officers related to the conditions of his confinement. Therefore, the more recent and specific one year statute of limitations under section 95.11(5)(g) applied.

The First District additionally explained that it disagreed with the Fifth District’s opinion in Calhoun v. Nienhuis, 110 So. 3d 24 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013), in which the Fifth District applied the four year limitations period under section 768.28(14) under similar circumstances. The Fifth District reasoned that the exception clause in section 95.011 means that all other statute of limitations periods outlined in the Florida Statutes outside of chapter 95 superseded any limitations period in chapter 95. The First District found that this interpretation would render the subsequently passed and more specific section 95.11(5)(g) a nullity from the time of its original passage, which the court said could not have been the intent of the Legislature.

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