Florida lawmakers are considering reform of the state’s litigation process in an effort to deter frivolous lawsuits and rein in predatory trial attorneys.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the planned litigation reforms Tuesday with Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast.
The proposed reform includes “measures eliminating one-way attorney fees and fee multipliers for all lines of insurance, modernizing Florida’s ‘bad faith’ law, and protecting small businesses from paying exorbitant damages,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.
“One-way attorney fees” allow only one of the parties in a lawsuit to receive attorneys’ fees. This allows one party to be more aggressive while the disadvantaged party is deterred from pursuing a claim or asserting a defense because of costs.
The litigation reform is intended to institute reforms to protect small businesses from being subjected to paying exorbitant damages when they are not primarily at fault. It also is intended to set standards for awarding medical damages to prevent fraudulent practices. These include requiring medical records, procedure codes, and information regarding health insurance reimbursement to ensure accurate settlements are reached between parties.
“For decades, Florida has been considered a judicial hellhole due to excessive litigation and a legal system that benefitted the lawyers more than people who are injured,” DeSantis said in the news release. “We are now working on legal reform that is more in line with the rest of the country and that will bring more businesses and jobs to Florida.”
Renner, in the news release, referenced the American Tort Reform Foundation’s trademarked ‘Judicial Hellhole’ report, which says litigation abuse costs Florida households more than $5,000, and costs the state more than 173,000 jobs annually. Florida is not ranked among the foundation’s top eight highlighted jurisdictions but is listed in a “Watch List” in its executive summary. The foundation claims Florida could increase its gross product by $17.7 billion. Download the report here.
Passidomo blamed a few bad actors for drawing out civil cases to collect more fees from insurance companies and said that must stop.
The litigation reform announcement was rebutted by the Florida Justice Association, an organization representing trial lawyers. The association said in a statement the rights of Florida residents are “under assault by insurance companies and corporate elites who think they can dictate which rights should be preserved and which can be tossed aside.”
The right to a trial by jury is one that the country’s Founding Fathers fought and died for, the association said.
“We cannot allow big insurance or multimillion dollar corporations, like Patriot Transportation, who joined Gov. DeSantis and legislative leaders at today’s press conference, to dictate our rights and block the courthouse doors,” the group said.
Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., Patriot Transportation Holding LLC is a tank truck hauler serving the southeastern U.S. It is publicly traded on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. LL