Will the Senate Pass Lawsuit Abuse Reform?

The Florida House continued to move key lawsuit abuse reforms during the seventh week of the 2020 Legislative Session and passed its first bad faith bill out of a committee in five years. Unfortunately, time is running out with the legislative session ending on March 13, and several priorities have stalled in the Florida Senate. Your help is needed, but first, here’s the rundown of what happened this week:

Accuracy in Damages

HB 9, also known as “Accuracy in Damages,” continued to advance in the House despite efforts by the trial bar to add a poison pill amendment. The amendment would have allowed the jury to see if the defense had liability insurance, but was defeated handily after testimony from the Florida Chamber and our partners at the Florida Justice Reform Institute. This bill is now poised to be taken up by the House. Despite the common-sense reforms to allow a jury to see the amount that is customarily accepted for a medical procedure, the bill is stuck in the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee, which is not scheduled to meet again.

Lawsuit Lending

Lawsuit Lending, or HB 7041, had its last of three committee hearings in the House. The bill adds consumer protections and creates regulations around the lawsuit lending industry, an industry that has cropped up in the last decade. These high-interest “loans” tend to force plaintiffs not to act in their best interests, and HB 7041 attempts to curb predatory practices by these lenders.

Bad Faith

In a late session surprise, a committee substitute amendment on bad faith reform was filed to an innocuous insurance bill in the House Commerce Committee. HB 895 was further amended to improve the bad faith language in the original amendment, and changes the civil remedy notice process and attempts to fix third-party bad faith. Florida is one of the few states in the country that allows for third-party bad faith, which costs Florida policyholders an additional $106 per insured vehicle in Florida. Opponents of the measure have requested that additional committee references be added to slow down the progress of the measure.

While it’s hard to say what is truly dead until the gavels drop on “Sine Die,” the conclusion of session, it appears that several lawsuit abuse issues are dead. Those issues include addressing municipal litigation, product liability actions, and trial lawyer advertising.

We Need Your Help

Without your action, lawsuit abuse reform efforts might not pass. Several key priorities that are ready for the House floor need hearings in the Senate, and we need YOU to urge senators to pass meaningful legal reform. The Florida Chamber and the rest of the business community submitted letters to Governor DeSantis asking for lawsuit abuse reform.

Click HERE to ask your senator to improve on Florida’s bottom-five legal climate and support the following:
• Accuracy in Damages
• Bad Faith
• Litigation Financing
• Contingency Risk Multiplier

Florida Chamber-Backed Bills Save Floridians Money and Improve Florida’s Insurance and Legal Climates

Thanks to the outreach of Florida Chamber members and volunteers, several lawsuit abuse reform bills have passed their committees in the Florida House and Senate. Be sure to send these legislators a thank you note by clicking the appropriate links below. The following is an update on these bills:

Property Insurance Reform – Assignment of Benefits

HB 669 sponsored by Rep. John Tobia (R-Melbourne) and SB 1064 sponsored by Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange), allows insurance companies to write policies that prohibit the post-loss assignment of benefits or rights other than for purposes of payment. This protects the homeowner by allowing them to maintain the rights of their policy but allows the contractor or subcontractor to be directly paid by the insurer.

This legislation is important to Florida’s business community because the bill:

  • Protects insurers against inflated claims by allowing the homeowner to maintain control of the repair and mitigation process
  • Balances the rights of the homeowner and the insurer when a loss occurs
  • Clarifies that insurers can prohibit the post-loss assignment of benefits as a part of an insurance policy
What’s Next:
  • HB 669- Has one more hearing at the Regulatory Affairs Committee, before being heard on the House Floor
  • SB 1064- Has two more hearings, with the Senate Judiciary Committee up next
Learn More:

Read an article by Rep. David Santiago on how assignment of benefits (AOB) forms are being abused. Send these legislators a thank you note for their hard work on these bills by clicking here.

Lawsuit Abuse Reform – Bad Faith/Fair Settlement

HB 1197 sponsored by Rep. Mike Hill (R-Pensacola) and SB 1088 sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R- St. Petersburg),specifies that the claimant, insured, or third party representing the claimant or insured must provide a written notice as a precedent to bringing a third-party bad faith claim. This will help improve Florida’s costly bottom 10 legal climate.

This legislation is important to Florida’s business community because the bill:

  • Allows insurers to act in good faith prior to a bad faith lawsuit being brought forward
  • Decreases frivolous litigation by trial lawyers
  • Improves Florida’s legal environment under which businesses operate
What’s Next:
  • HB 1197- Has two more hearings, with the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee up next
  • SB 1088- Has three more hearings, with the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee up next
Learn More:

Visit our Legal Reform Page and learn where we stand on this issue. Also, send these legislators a thank you note for their hard work on these bills by clicking here.

Lawsuit Abuse Reform – Accuracy in Damages

HB 1199 sponsored by Rep. Larry Metz (R-Groveland) protects businesses from increased costs by ensuring accuracy in the damages paid in personal injury actions. This reduces “phantom damages” or inflated costs in these personal injury cases by allowing the jury to have information on the actual cost of medical care.

This legislation is important to Florida’s business community because the bill:

  • Ensures payments are made for actual and necessary medical expenses
  • Decreases frivolous litigation by trial lawyers who inflate medical damages to increase costs on businesses so they can receive a higher fee
What’s Next:

•HB 1199- Has one more hearing remaining at the House Judiciary Committee, before being heard on the House Floor

Learn More:

Visit our Legal Reform Page and learn where we stand on this issue. Also, send these legislators a thank you note for their hard work on these bills by clicking here.

Prejudgment Interest

SB 794 would allow interest to be charged on damages from the date the injury or tort occurred, not from the date the legal decision was made. More companies will be forced to settle to avoid increased legal costs as a result of additional interest in a drawn out legal system.

This legislation is bad for Florida’s business because the bill:

  • Further deteriorates Florida’s legal climate and image as a “gotcha” state
  • Increases the cost of personal injury lawsuits, which is already a significant cost to Florida’s employers, by charging interest before a legal decision has been rendered
  • Forces more companies to settle, despite the merit of the claim, to avoid paying interest for ongoing litigation

What’s Next:

  • SB 794- Has three more hearings, with the next hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee
Learn More:

Due to the high response rate from Florida Chamber members and volunteers, this bill has been postponed in the Senate for the third consecutive week.