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, 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.
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
Lawsuit Abuse Reform Slowing
Lawsuit abuse reform slowed down this week as bills started to get jammed up in committee. Three weeks remain in the legislative session, which ends on March 13, and an uphill battle remains to get issues across the finish line. Here is what continued to move during week six.
Accuracy in Damages
The House Commerce Committee moved HB 9, accuracy in damages, by Representative Tom Leek out of committee Thursday, while the Senate bill was temporarily postponed due to lack of votes in its third of four committee stops. It’s unclear if the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will meet again to consider SB 1668. These bills would allow juries to see the amount usually and customarily paid for a medical service, in addition to the amount billed.
Litigation financing was held up in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee with several amendments as the clock ran out on the committee. SB 1828 by Senator Doug Broxson protects consumers from these payday loans of the lawsuit industry. The Senate bill still has three committee stops remaining, however it’s believed the majority of substantive committees will not meet during weeks seven through nine. The House companion, HB 7041, has one committee hearing remaining which is the House Commerce Committee.
Asbestos Trust Claims
Asbestos Trust Claims continued to move this week with a hearing in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. SB 1582 brings transparency to the trust claim process and ensures that claims move legitimately and more quickly through the judicial process.
Motor Vehicle Dealers
Motor Vehicle Dealers zipped through its second of three committee hearings in the Senate this week. The bill clarifies that the dangerous instrumentality doctrine does not apply to loaner vehicles while a car is being serviced by a motor vehicle dealer. This exemption already applies to vehicle leases. Both the House and Senate bill have one committee stop remaining.
The Florida Chamber will continue the fight to improve Florida’s bottom-five legal climate. Now is the time to contact your lawmaker and ask for meaningful lawsuit abuse reform this session.
Ensure Your Voice Is Heard
The Florida Chamber is leading Florida’s lawsuit abuse reform efforts, and your support is essential to demonstrating how Florida’s legal climate harms businesses and families. Click here to share which legal climate issues are most important to you.