CSX Railroad refuses to allow central Floridians to create a new “green” dream train mode of travel between the cities of Tampa, Lakeland, Orlando, Deland,and Daytona Beach unless they are given sovereign immunity by the State of Florida. The State of Florida HAS offered to 1)pay CSX one-half billion dollars for the the right to share their existing railroad lines 2) get the federal, state , and local governments to spend another 615 million dollars to improve track conditions, as well as build train stations and buy new trains 3) allow CSX to continue to use the train tracks for their own commercial use(which is quite profitable) However CSX is unwilling to go along with the deal unless the state also gives them “sovereign immunity” or protection from lawsuits by innocent citizens who are injured by the negligence of CSX and it’s employees. As it stands now the railroad has a duty to protect the public and create safe conditions in operating it’s trains and other operations. CSX wants to be relieved of this responsibility by asking the state to pass a law that limits the rights of ordinary people to sue them even if their negligence kills or seriously injures someone.
Paul Jess, general counsel, for the Florida Justice Association released the following statement”If CSX is not going to be financially responsible for it’s own negligence, what incentive does it have to keep the rail safe?” The bill to approve this one-sided deal failed in the Florida Senate this past week. Senator Paula Dockery , a Republican from Lakeland, Florida stated “I don’t envision a time anytime soon where thoughtful senators are going to say that there’s some kind of good public policy involved in taking liability away from somebody who was at fault and putting it on the taxpayers of the State of Florida”
The concept of sovereign immunity dates back to merry old England when the king controlled everything and didn’t want anyone messing with his power, control or wealth. So he came up with a slogan “The king can do no wrong” and that became sovereign immunity. No one had any rights to sue the king. That concept was carried over to the United States and it’s individual states. Forida had absolute sovereign immunity until 1956 when young lawyer from Daytona Beach named Maurice Wagner took on a very compelling case. A young man in Cocoa Beach Florida had been arrested for DUI and was put into the small Cocoa Beach jail overnight. The sole jailer decided to go get some coffee and a donut up the road and left Mr. Hargreaves locked up with no one else at the jail. The jail caught on fire and Mr. Hargreaves died a horrible death inside the jail cell. His widow asked Maurice Wagner to sue the city of Cocoa Beach for their negligence. The supreme court of Florida ruled in favor of the widow and declared the the concept of sovereign immunity was outdated and had no place in modern day society.
The people of the state of Florida need to have “green” transportation but major corporate giants like CSX Transportation should not be allowed to trample everyone’s right to be protected from unsafe and dangerous conditions. A “free ride” on the the CSX railroad might be ok in a game of monopoly but the people of Florida deserve more.