A day after Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders backed the idea, two House Republicans on Wednesday filed a proposal that would make wide-ranging changes aimed at shielding businesses and insurance companies from costly lawsuits.
The 22-page bill, filed by House Judiciary Chairman Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, and Rep. Tom Fabricio, R-Miami Lakes, includes limiting fees paid to plaintiffs’ attorneys, changing what are known as “bad faith” laws and helping defendants avoid paying damages when they are only partially at fault.
This bill will reset our judicial climate, reduce lawsuit and insurance claims costs and ultimately benefit consumers and business owners." — Michael Carlson, president and CEO, Personal Insurance Federation of Florida
Michael Carlson, president and CEO of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, which represents national insurance companies, said in a statement that the package of legal changes “is the most consequential in decades.”
“State leaders have had it with the lawsuit abuse and are out to stop it where it still exists,” Carlson said. “This bill will reset our judicial climate, reduce lawsuit and insurance claims costs and ultimately benefit consumers and business owners.”
A Senate version of the bill had not been filed as of Wednesday afternoon. But Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, and Gov. Ron DeSantis made an appearance Tuesday in Jacksonville to call for such changes during the legislative session that will start March 7.
Empowering the rich and powerful is not what this country was founded on and not something any of us should stand for.” — Curry Pajcic, president, Florida Justice Association
The proposal will face fierce opposition from plaintiffs’ attorneys, who are expected to argue that it will take away legal rights from injured people while benefiting businesses.
“Empowering the rich and powerful is not what this country was founded on and not something any of us should stand for,” Curry Pajcic, president of the Florida Justice Association plaintiffs’ attorneys group, said in a statement Tuesday after the appearance by DeSantis and the legislative leaders. “Our nation was founded on the principles of a free and fair government that allows access to the courts for every citizen, and not only for the elite few.”
The numerous parts of the bill include:
- Eliminating what are known as “one-way attorney fees” in lawsuits against insurers. One-way attorney fees require insurers to pay the attorney fees of plaintiffs who are successful in lawsuits. Lawmakers in December eliminated one-way attorney fees in lawsuits against property insurers, but the bill would extend that to other lines of insurance, such as in auto-insurance cases.
- Making a series of changes make it harder to pursue bad-faith lawsuits. Generally, bad-faith lawsuits allege that insurers did not properly settle claims and can be costly if insurance companies lose. As an example, the bill would add sections of law that say “negligence alone is insufficient to constitute bad faith” and that people who are insured and their representatives “have a duty to act in good faith in furnishing information regarding the claim, in making demands of the insurer, in setting deadlines, and in attempting to settle the claim.”
- Changing a comparative-fault law to say that people found to be more than 50 percent at fault for harm they suffered cannot recover damages in negligence cases.