Florida Achieves Major Lawsuit Reform
The rise of exorbitant damage awards in civil suits, otherwise known as nuclear verdicts, is a trend which has seen significant rise in recent decades.
Last month, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a comprehensive lawsuit reform package for the state of Florida. The bill, HB 837, went into effect on March 24th, 2023, upon Governor DeSantis’ signature.
Passed by the legislature with broad support in both chambers, the new law addressed a variety of issues which take place in the world of civil litigation, implemented with the larger goal of decreasing frivolous lawsuits.
Among the various legal reforms, this bill reduces the statute of limitations from four years to two years for general negligence cases, provides limited situations for which one way attorney fees and fee multiplier provisions can be applied, and ensures that Floridians can’t be held liable for damages if the person suing is more at fault than a defendant, as determined by a jury, ultimately disincentivizing frivolous lawsuits and prolonged litigation.
Additionally, HB 837 establishes further transparency in healthcare reimbursement cost information to assist juries in calculating the actual amount of medical damages in personal injury and wrongful death cases. It also establishes a presumption against civil liability in connection with criminal acts that occur on Floridians’ property which are committed by unrelated third parties.
“This legislation brings balance to the system and protects the legal rights of Floridians to access to the courts while reducing the number of frivolous lawsuits,” said Representative Tom Fabricio.
“When a horrible accident or incident occurs and people suffer a loss, they should be compensated quickly and fairly,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. “The vast majority of attorneys work very hard to provide sound legal representation for Floridians in these difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, there are a few bad actors who are in the business to draw out civil cases as long as possible, collecting more and more fees from insurance companies. Litigation drives up the basic costs of goods and services for everyone across all areas of industry and commerce. Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, we have taken many steps to help keep Florida affordable for growing families and seniors. This legislation further those efforts striking the right balance and protect the rights of Floridians who suffer a loss, while at the same time safeguarding everyone else against the hidden costs of prolonged litigation.”
Florida’s recent lawsuit reform measures are a remedy to many civil litigation issues seen in courtrooms across the country. The rise of exorbitant damage awards in civil suits, otherwise known as nuclear verdicts, is a trend which has seen significant rise in recent decades. ALEC model policies such as the Transparency in Lawsuits Protection Act and the Anchors Away Act provide a few remedies to this ongoing phenomena, and the greater issue of the abuse of our courts and judicial system. Both models are featured in ALEC’s recently released Essential Policy Solutions for 2023.