Florida Tort Reform Bill Could Harm Personal Injury Plaintiffs, Lawyers Say

Tort reform advocates have long pushed for ways to make it harder for Florida personal injury claimants to be compensated for losses caused by negligence. While these tort reform proponents rail about frivolous lawsuits and out-of-control damage awards and greedy plaintiff lawyers and rising insurance costs, the reality is they work for the insurance industry and they’re selling snake oil. It’s been proven time and again that rules barring litigation and enforcing caps on personal injury damages do nothing to curb insurance costs or bolster industry. Our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm noted as much when the Florida Supreme Court said as much in 2017 when in North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan it struck down a law capping non-economic damages or medical malpractice, rebuking legislators for predicating the law on false/misleading industry statistics.Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer

Now, emboldened by a business-friendly legislature, governor and state supreme court, Florida lawmakers are proposing a series of new tort reform measures that would once again make it more difficult for injured plaintiffs to recover sufficient damages inflicted by negligence. The first is HB 17 Tort Reform and the second is SB 1320 Damages Recoverable for Health Care Costs in Florida personal injury and wrongful death claims.

Florida Tort Reform Bill Would Protect Insurance Companies

Let’s start with HB 17. The measure is specific to products liability lawsuits, and would in effect:

  • Render the seller not liable for “unreasonable misuse of the product.” Currently, any entity in the chain of distribution can be found liable for injuries caused by “foreseeable misuse,” meaning the misuse was one that could be reasonably foreseen by the manufacturer and/or seller.
  • Reduction of damages for any misuse of products resulting in injury. Currently there is no such reduction for foreseeable misuse of a product.
  • Outlines guidelines for ascertaining whether a product that’s been misused can be deemed defective.
  • Provides an accounting of damages for product liability lawsuits.
  • Allows certain business contracts to be concealed/not subject to discovery/disclosure in personal injury lawsuits.
  • Caps non-economic damages for pain and suffering in personal injury litigation.
  • Requires that jurors deciding these cases be kept in the dark about these provisions.

In support of the measure, proponent lawmakers paraded a series of witnesses to testify before a House committee. One of those was a defense attorney for a popular southern grocery store chain who reported it is 65 percent more costly to settle a personal injury lawsuit in Florida than in any other state where the store operates. One proponent of the measure in House (not coincidentally also a defense attorney for insurance companies) referred to the state as a “judicial hellhole,” as described by the American Tort Reform Association.

It’s worth pointing out that when the state supreme court struck down medical malpractice damage caps, justices then accused lawmakers of “manufacturing a medical malpractice crisis” by asserting the number of physicians in Florida was rapidly decreasing amid rising medical malpractice claims. In fact, doctors in the state at the time were increasing – and that trend has continued.

This tort reform bill seeks to reinstate the $1 million damage caps on pain and suffering, something juries currently decide.

This latest push is likely to gain productive steam now that the Florida Supreme Court now has no justices appointed by Democratic governors, following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appointment of three new members earlier this year. Republicans have been primarily the ones appointing judges for the last two decades.

Meanwhile, SB 1320 would require plaintiffs in personal injury or wrongful death attorney seeking to recover for health care costs to produce evidence of “the usual and customer rates for health care services, procedures or equipment.”

Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyers Deny State is “Judicial Hellhole” 

As a longtime Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer, Richard Ansara says it’s important that voters know the “judicial hellhole” argument is exceedingly week. Damage caps do not – and are not – harming Florida’s economy. The economy is doing well.

This push represents the latest effort to subvert victims’ rights and give large corporations an unnecessary “get-out-of-jail-free” card.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

New Supreme Court emboldening Florida lawmakers to push tort reform, March 6, 2019, By Zac Anderson, Gatehouse News Service

More Blog Entries:

Excessive Dose Medical Malpractice Alleged in Hospital Wrongful Death Claims, Feb. 26, 2019, Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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