Governor DeSantis’s Legislative Affairs Director Stephanie Kopelousos Shares Insights on EFI, Legal Reform & VISIT FLORIDA on the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line

TALLAHASSEE, FL (February 12, 2020) – When Governor Ron DeSantis outlined his 2020 legislative priorities during his annual State of the State speech just five weeks ago, he encouraged lawmakers to continue improving on Florida’s bottom-five legal environment by passing meaningful lawsuit abuse reforms.

On the latest edition of the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line, Stephanie Kopelousos, Legislative Affairs Director for Governor Ron DeSantis explains why it’s important to improve on Florida’s bottom-five legal climate.

“I think you see legislation this session that are going through that I think will make a difference. But the Governor’s made it a clear priority, just look at how many judicial appointments he’s made in really trying to get us from the bottom – we are at the bottom – in making that climate better for Floridians,” Kopelousos says.

Additionally, with a budget battle brewing between the House and Senate, Kopelousos explains why it’s important for the legislature to invest, as Governor DeSantis has recommended, in Florida’s tourism marketing and economic development programs by funding VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida, Inc.

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Established in 1916 as Florida’s first statewide business advocacy organization, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Gov. DeSantis’s Legislative Director Gives Insights on Enterprise Florida, Legal Reform & VISIT FLORIDA

When Governor Ron DeSantis outlined his 2020 legislative priorities during his annual State of the State speech just five weeks ago, he encouraged lawmakers to continue improving on Florida’s bottom five legal environment by passing meaning lawsuit abuse reforms.

On the latest edition of the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line, Stephanie Kopelousos, Legislative Affairs Director for Governor Ron DeSantis explains why it’s important to improve on Florida’s bottom five legal climate.

“I think you see legislation this session that are going through that I think will make a difference. But the Governor’s made it a clear priority, just look at how many judicial appointments he’s made in really trying to get us from the bottom – we are at the bottom – in making that climate better for Floridians,” Kopelousos says.

Additionally, with a budget battle brewing between the House and Senate, Kopelousos explains why it’s important for the legislature to invest, as Governor DeSantis has recommended, in Florida’s tourism marketing and economic development programs by funding VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida, Inc.

Florida Chamber of Commerce Applauds Florida Supreme Court For Adopting Higher Expert Witness Standards

Ends Six-Year Court Battle

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (May 23, 2019)— The Florida Chamber of Commerce applauds the Florida Supreme Court for today issuing an opinion adopting Florida’s expert witness standards to the higher Daubert standard, and eliminating junk science from Florida’s court. This is a significant move that ends a six-year old battle in which the previous court’s attempts to undermine the Florida Legislature by keeping in place the weaker Frye standard in place.

“This is an important step forward in improving Florida’s legal climate, and providing predictability in the courtroom, stability for job creators, and greater economic prosperity for Floridians,” said David Hart, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

With today’s action, Florida will no longer be an outlier since our state courts will now join the U.S. Supreme Court, all federal courts and most states in using the Daubert standard. Florida courts will now use the same fair and simple standard that implements a multi-faceted test to decide on the admissibility of expert evidence.

The Florida Chamber-backed Daubert standard, was passed by the Florida Legislature in 2013. However, former activist Supreme Court justices refused to adopt the Daubert standard into the Florida Evidence Code.

Due to the mandatory retirement of three justices, Governor Ron DeSantis appointed three new justices. Today’s opinion marks a significant departure from the previous court and signals a court that may help end Florida’s reign as a “judicial hellhole.”

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Established in 1916 as Florida’s first statewide business advocacy organization, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

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Let 2019 be the Year the Legislature Puts Consumers Ahead of Trial Lawyer Scams

Right now, your state legislators in Tallahassee have an opportunity to lower the cost of living for Floridians. That’s good news for everyone, but it’s particularly good news for those living in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties that are artificially paying higher home and auto insurance rates than they should.

The reason rates are unusually high in the tri-county region is because Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties are at the epicenter of a home and auto repair abuse scheme that’s sending rates skyrocketing. It’s known as “assignment of benefits,” or AOB, and last year there were more than 135,000 AOB-related lawsuits in Florida – up from just 1,300 in 2000. The numbers are real and alarming.

AOB abuse rewards a few at the expense of many. It’s become a cottage industry for trial lawyers and shady contractors and vendors who roam neighborhoods looking for their next victims.

 

Here’s How It Works

A homeowner wakes up to a water leak in their kitchen and calls a plumber. The plumber encourages the homeowner to hire a vendor for clean-up and damage mitigation. Often secretly, the vendor pays the plumber a “referral fee.”

The vendor then asks the homeowner to sign some forms, saying that they’ll take care of everything including dealing with the insurance company. What the homeowner doesn’t know is their signature transferred all of the rights to their insurance policy over to the vendor who doesn’t have their best interest in mind.

Far too many homeowners are left with shoddy repairs or no repairs made at all, and then the vendor submits inflated repair bills to the insurance company – setting it up to deny the claim because of the overpriced bill. When the claim is denied, the vendor teams up with a trial lawyer to sue the insurance company in the name of the policyholder – without you ever knowing!

 

It Gets Worse

Florida law allows for one-way attorney fees, meaning the vendor’s lawyer gets paid if the insurer settles the lawsuit to avoid a costly legal battle or loses by as little as $1 in court. Bottom line: Vendors are incentivized to sue because they don’t have much to lose.

The AOB scheme didn’t exist until several years ago when a few creative trial lawyers discovered a loophole and started teaching vendors how to use AOBs to pad their profits. From 2008 to 2018, AOB lawsuits increased by over 900 percent, while total lawsuits in that same period increased just over 400 percent. Five firms filed more than 20 percent of all property AOB lawsuits, and even worse, nine firms filed nearly 85 percent of all auto glass AOB cases.

According to the Florida Justice Reform Institute, AOB lawsuits are growing much faster than the population, going from little more than a few hundredths of a point as a fraction of Florida’s population to nearly a full three-quarters of a percent now.

Eleanor Posner of Delray Beach can attest to how bad the problem is. She became a victim of AOB abuse following a water leak in her laundry room. A vendor charged her insurance company $12,000 for the water removal and drying, then filed a lawsuit when the insurer disputed the inflated amount. Because she signed an AOB, she was powerless to do anything about it and lived in fear of the vendor coming after her for the balance or placing a lien on her home.

 

Helping to Stop AOB Abuse

The Consumer Protection Coalition, spearheaded by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, is leading the effort to help stop these abusive practices. AOB reform is vital to lowering the cost of living on families – Floridians that fill the jobs that keep our state’s economy growing.

We’ve joined in supporting AOB reform legislation in the Florida House and Senate – reform that the Wall Street Journal has for two years said is long overdue. Governor Ron DeSantis said recently he hopes lawmakers pass legislation to reform AOB, which has “degenerated into a racket.” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. President and CEO Barry Gilway also have warned that something must be done to stop the abuse.

 

Floridians Supporting a Legislative Fix March to Capitol

Shoring up that support are the voices of more than 10,000 Floridians who have signed petitions calling on lawmakers to close the loophole that lines the pockets of a few trial lawyers while it harms everyday Floridians.

With hurricane season only a few months away, Floridians simply can’t wait any longer.

Join Us in Calling on Lawmakers to Make 2019 the Year AOB Reform Finally Passes

  1. Contact your Representative and Senators – encourage them to pass AOB reform (SB 122 & HB 7065).
  2. Sign the petition for AOB reform.
  3. Be the first to know when registration opens for the Florida Chamber’s annual Insurance Summit taking place November 2019.

 

PS: Earlier this morning, the Florida House took an additional step toward AOB reform when it passed HB 7065 out of the House Judiciary Committee. It is expected to be heard by the full House soon.

 

 

March 28, 2019

Lawmakers Continue Advancing Bills to Improve Florida’s Legal Climate

 

Watch Senator Doug Broxson      Sign the AOB Petition

 

During the third week of the legislative session, lawmakers in both the House and Senate continued to take steps to improve on Florida’s bottom-five legal climate and lower the cost of doing business for Florida’s families and small-businesses.

Four Florida Chamber-backed lawsuit abuse reform bills passed their respective committees this week:

  • Assignment of Benefits Reform – SB 122 and companion HB 7065
  • Dangerous Instrumentality—SB 862 and companion HB 355

SB 1464, a bill related to Fair Settlement, and HB 17, a bill related to Damages, were also on committee agendas this week but were temporarily postponed. These bills are still available to be put on the agenda in the future.

We will keep you up-to-date as lawsuit abuse reform legislation moves forward.

Three Ways You Can Get Involved

  1. Watch Senator Doug Broxson talk about the importance of AOB reform on the Florida Chamber Bottom Line.
  2. Sign the petition seeking AOB reform by visiting www.FightFraud.Today.
  3. Be the first to know when registration opens for the Florida Chamber’s annual Insurance Summit taking place November 2019.

Lawmakers Continue Advancing Bills to Improve Florida’s Legal Climate

 

Watch Senator Doug Broxson      Sign the AOB Petition

 

Lawmakers in the Florida House of Representatives continue taking steps to improve on Florida’s bottom-five legal climate and lower the cost of doing business on Florida’s families and small-businesses.

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee and the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee passed three Florida Chamber-backed lawsuit abuse reform bills this week:

  • Medical Malpractice- PCB CJS 19-02
  • Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine- HB 355
  • Duty of Good Faith – HB 751

Three additional lawsuit abuse reform related bills are expected to be heard on Monday in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, including AOB reform (SB 122). Also, on Monday, SB 1464 (Fair Settlement Act) and SB 862 (Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine) are expected to be heard.

Three Ways You Can Get Involved:

  1. Watch Senator Doug Broxson talk about the importance of AOB reform on the Florida Chamber Bottom Line.
  2. Sign the petition seeking AOB reform by visiting www.FightFraud.Today.
  3. Read Florida Chamber CEO’s Point of View: Florida lawmakers must fix the assignment of benefits crisis.

Florida Chamber Launches New Ads Urging Senators to Put the Brakes on Higher Auto Insurance Rates

TALLAHASSEE, FL (February 26, 2018) – The Florida Chamber of Commerce today launched new multi-media ads urging senators to put the brakes on higher auto insurance rates. Caution Alert! highlights an effort to pass a new law that would require Florida drivers to pay more for auto insurance.

“If you think this legislation is good for you as a consumer, ask yourself one question: ‘Why is it billboard trial lawyers’ number one must-pass bill?’” said David Hart, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Florida has been named the worst “Judicial Hellhole” in the country by the American Tort Reform Association, and Florida’s legal climate is in the bottom five worst nationwide by the Institute for Legal Reform. Moreover, 70 percent of Florida voters believe trial lawyers are more interested in lining their own pockets instead of their clients’ best interest, according to the Florida Chamber’s latest statewide political poll.

Instead of raising rates, the ad encourages Florida drivers to contact their Senators and encourage them to keep coverage affordable.

Caution Alert! targets a legislative move to end the requirement that Florida drivers obtain no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. SB 150 would eliminate cost containment measures and result in consumers paying more for a new, mandatory set of coverages that escalate over time. Further, it doesn’t address lawsuit abuses that are infusing added costs into the system – at motorists’ expense.

“The Florida Chamber supports reforms that reduce fraud while also protecting drivers from higher auto coverage rates. SB 150 does neither,” Hart added.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Florida Chamber Series on Free Enterprise: Allen McGlynn

 

Survey: How Does Lawsuit Abuse Affect You?   “Judicial Hellhole Report” Report   Meet Mary

 

Allen McGlynn, a member of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Tallahassee Regional Board Chair, talks about Assignment of Benefits (AOB) and prejudgment interest in this installation of the Florida Chamber’s Series on Free Enterprise Podcast.

“These Assignment of Benefits forms go much further, in that they attempt to transfer legal rights to the entire claim process, including the policyholders right to attorney fees, to the vendor or contractor themselves. This essentially removes the policyholder from the claims process,” McGlynn said. “It actually acts to make the policyholder, who is the homeowner, the subordinate of that contractor. The contractor now has total control over the homeowner and their insurance claim. They control the filing of the claim, the schedule and the scope of the repair or remediation work, the price of that work and any potential litigation relating to the claim.”

The AOB lawsuit scam was almost non-existent 15 years ago, but has now spread across Florida – leaving far too many homeowners holding the bill on this ‘get rich quick’ scheme developed by trial lawyers and shady repair vendors. In 2006, there were 405 AOB lawsuits in Florida and by 2016, that number had risen to 28,200. According to the Department of Financial Services, there has been a 90,000 percent increase in AOB lawsuits in Florida since 2000.

“Some unscrupulous vendors or contractors and their attornies use these AOB forms and the rights that may come with them to protect their questionable or fraudulent business practices,” McGlynn said. “They use the threat of large attornies fees to leverage settlements on fraudulent or inflated claims, which ends up creating upward pressure on everyone’s homeowner’s insurance rates. This has become a trend of epic proportions in Florida.”

 

Click Below to Listen to Allen McGlynn’s Podcast

 

 

Read What The WSJ Just Wrote

For the sixth time this year, the Wall Street Journal has highlighted Florida’s stormy legal climate. Read why legal reform is important to Florida in the latest editorial. Read the full article here. Take action to stop AOB lawsuits today. Share this podcast with your employees and fellow business leaders, and ask them to sign the petition to reign in AOB lawsuits.

 

Have You Met Mary?

We invite you to Meet Mary, a concerned Floridian whose family pays too much in frivolous lawsuit taxes. Mary is paying about $3,400 a year in lawsuit abuse taxes.

Tell Your Lawmaker: Recent ‘Judicial Hellhole’ Ranking Deserves Our Collective Action

 

Contact Legislator   “Judicial Hellhole” Report   Legal Reform

 

Last week, the American Tort Reform Association released its “Judicial Hellhole” report and named Florida the worst “Judicial Hellhole” in the country, the first time in the 16 year history of the report.

Lawsuit abuse in Florida is an increasingly serious and expensive problem, and translates approximately into a $3,400 ‘tax’ for Florida’s families each year.

There have been five Wall Street Journal articles this year alone highlighting Florida’s lawsuit abuse problem. The national Institute for Legal Reform named Florida the fifth worst legal climate in America, and now ATRA ranks Florida at the top of their list (even worse than California).

 

Take Action: Contact Your Legislator

Contact your legislator to let them know Florida needs their leadership. Send a letter to your legislator today and tell them to lower the cost of living on families by fixing Florida’s broken lawsuit climate.

Legal Reform News That Matters to You

 

Get More Legal Reform News

 

Florida takes No. 1 spot on ‘Judicial Hellholes’ list
Florida Politics

Florida takes the top spot among the states in more than a few lists, but it earned a “distinction” from the American Tort Reform Association which said the Sunshine State was the No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” in the country.

Tell Us What You Think

Let the Florida Chamber Foundation Know What You Think About Legal Reform News

Let the Florida Chamber Foundation Know What You Think About Legal Reform News

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More News for You

High Court’s Contempt for Lawmakers’ Authority, Lawsuit Rackets Make Florida No. 1 ‘Judicial Hellhole’
Sunshine State News

Court Rules Against Insurer on ‘Assignment of Benefits’
Sunshine State News

ATRA: Florida is the Country’s Worst “Judicial Hellhole”

 

Survey: How Does Lawsuit Abuse Affect You?   News Release   ATRA Report   Meet Mary

 

Florida Surpasses California to Become Worst “Judicial Hellhole”

The Sunshine State could be named the “Shady State” after a new report by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) named Florida the “nation’s worst Judicial Hellhole,” the first time in the study’s 16-year history where the state was ranked number one.

Lawsuit abuse in Florida is an increasingly serious and expensive problem, and it just keeps getting worse. On average, it translates into a $3,400 ‘tax’ for Florida’s families each year, due to increased lawsuit abuse costs.

According to ATRA, the trial bar’s aggressive practices throughout Florida, along with friendly lawmakers in positions of power in the Legislature, have made Florida a hellscape for litigation and abuse. Continued failure by the Legislature to enact serious legal reform during the 2018 session will continue Florida’s slide as a “judicial hellhole” and worsen an already crippling legal environment for businesses and residents alike.

Read the Report

For the first time in its 16-year history, the Judicial Hellholes report by ATRA named Florida the worst “judicial hellhole” in the country, surpassing California. Read the full report.

Have You Met Mary?

We invite you to Meet Mary, a concerned Floridian whose family pays too much in frivolous lawsuit taxes. Mary is paying about $3,400 a year in lawsuit abuse taxes.

In the News: “Florida Takes No. 1 Spot on ‘Judicial Hellholes’ List

Read the full Florida Politics article.

A Guide to Legal Reform Issues

 

Learn More About Legal Reform Issues   Join a Caucus

 

To ensure Florida’s economy remains competitive we must address Florida’s broken legal climate. For Florida to remain a leader in U.S. job creation and ensure that dated and costly regulations become a thing of the past, we must continue to build an environment that invites businesses and investments worldwide, as well as retaining Florida’s already growing businesses.

Florida continues to fail in terms of legal climate — coming in at 46 of 50 in 2017. When lawsuit abuse occurs, Florida families and
businesses feel the impact through higher costs of living creating a $3,400 “tax” for families each year. Florida’s position as one of the bottom-five legal climates in the U.S. hurts our ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Resources

U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

American Tort Reform Foundation
– Judicial Hellholes 2017-2018

Anti-Business Prejudgment Interest Bill Amended, Still Heading to Senate Floor

On March 29, the Florida Senate Rules Committee approved SB 334, sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) by a 10-1 margin. As amended, the anti-business, trial lawyer-backed “prejudgment interest” bill allows interest to be charged on economic damages from the date the injury or tort occurred, not from the date the legal decision was made, as is the current law.

The committee adopted an amendment by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) and Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), which eliminated language that would have allowed prejudgment interest to be charged for attorney fees and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. Despite the amendment’s efforts to more narrowly apply prejudgment interest, the Florida Chamber remains opposed to SB 334. Prejudgment interest will further drive up the cost of personal injury lawsuits against Floridians and force businesses into a “sue-and-settle” position. It also removes existing discretion available to judges and instead mandates prejudgment interest be awarded.

Thank Sen. Latvala

Click here to thank Sen. Jack Latvala, the only Senator to support Florida’s business community by voting AGAINST SB 334 at its most recent committee vote.

Why is “Prejudgment Interest Bad for Businesses?

Watch the video below, and then share it with other business leaders to warn them about the latest sue-and-settle scheme brewing in Tallahassee.

 

What’s Next?

The Senate’s version of the bill, SB 334, will move to a vote on the Senate Floor. The House’s version of the bill, HB 469, has one more committee stop before potentially moving to a vote on the House Floor.

Video Highlights Sue-and-Settle Scheme

SHARE OUR VIDEO: Click on the arrow in the top right corner of the video.

Did You Know Florida Has One of the Worst Legal Climates in the Nation?

Florida’s broken legal climate is in the bottom 10 out of 50 states, and if lawmakers pass prejudgment interest, the worst it yet to come. Florida lawmakers are considering changing laws that would dramatically increase the cost of legal judgments, which would harm Florida businesses.

On March 22, FloridaWins.org released its latest video highlighting the sue-and-settle trial lawyer scheme called prejudgment interest. Watch the video above, and then share it with other business leaders to warn them about the latest sue-and-settle scheme.

Trial Lawyer Bill Temporarily Halted Thanks to Your Leadership

But the Fight Isn’t Over

Thanks to your leadership, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida’s business community today took a stand and, despite a full frontal assault by the trial lawyers, temporarily halted the trial lawyers’ number one legislative priority. And while this is good news, it is only temporary.

Prejudgment interest is the interest accrued as part of a lawsuit from the date of the claim to the time the final judgement is given.

SB 334 would have forced interest to be accrued beginning at the time the loss occurred instead of following the date of judgment. This is especially problematic if delays in court were to occur, all the while accruing interest, and could force companies into settling more court cases to avoid paying additional interest.

Florida already has a bottom-10 legal climate, and bills like prejudgment interest, the trial lawyers’ top priority for the 2017 legislative session, will only increase the costs of Florida’s litigious legal climate and force job creators into a worsening cycle of “sue and settle”.

The Florida Chamber commends Senators Bill Galvano, Wilton Simpson and Jack Latvala for standing strong against special-interests and putting Florida’s jobs creators first.

But while this bill has been halted- it is only temporary. Trial lawyers will continue to fight for this bill and we need you now more than ever.

Share how this bill will impact your ability to create jobs by contacting me at cjohnson@flchamber.com.