Parkland shooting families seek compensation in court

Victims' families and survivors of last year's mass shooting at a Parkland high school said Wednesday they are filing lawsuits accusing the Broward County school district and sheriff’s office of negligence.

The families allege that Broward County public schools failed to keep students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School safe from the shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz. Cruz, a former student, left a trail of warning signs before he killed 17 people and wounded 17 others on Feb. 14, 2018, the families allege.

The lawsuits also accuse the Broward Sheriff's Office of failing to try to stop the gunman during the Parkland massacre.

Senate President Bill Galvano told reporters on Wednesday that the state may potentially play a role in helping “facilitate the payment of claims and expedite” the compensation process. Generally, claim bills are filed with the Legislature following some fact-finding by the courts, or after a settlement with a government entity has been made, Galvano said. But Galvano’s spokeswoman Katie Betta said the Senate president supports consolidating the claims, which would allow the claims to be handled more expeditiously than if the bills were filed individually.

The lawsuits filed by the families could potentially seek millions of dollars in compensation, but Galvano, a lawyer, deferred when asked to estimate the total amount.

“It is something that I think is premature for us to jump out in front of it and try to assign some number and discern who gets what,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, said.

Shortly after he took office in January, Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Israel, a Democrat, appealed that decision, arguing that the Republican governor lacked the authority to remove the law enforcement official from office. But last week, a Broward County circuit judge sided with DeSantis.

Israel appealed that ruling to the Florida Supreme Court, which on Wednesday agreed to take up the matter and set a schedule for lawyers to file briefs in the case.

“The court has recognized my authority as governor to suspend him for neglect of duty and incompetence and this appeal is just his latest delay tactic,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement last week.