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Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law creates an immunity from criminal prosecution for persons who use “justifiable force” to defend themselves from someone using imminent and unlawful force against them. This far reaching law even creates immunity for the use of deadly force, under the right set of circumstances. This controversial law received national attention recently with the Trayvon Martin trial.
For the first time, a Florida appellate court examined the law’s application in civil lawsuits. The specific case involved a personal injury claim between two coworkers. Jose Alvarez allegedly beat his coworker, Derrick Roy Flemmings, with a baseball bat. During the criminal trial for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, Alvarez successfully argued his defense under the “Stand Your Ground” law. Flemmings filed a civil lawsuit against his attacker and their employer, arguing that the company was negligent in hiring and training Alvarez.
The lower court dismissed the civil lawsuit, finding that where there was criminal immunity there would also be civil immunity. The Florida appeals court reversed the dismissal, and held that although there might be civil immunity, that is an issue that must be addressed at an evidentiary hearing. The issue of civil immunity under the “Stand Your Ground” law, therefore, apparently will be determined on a case-by-case, fact-intensive basis.