Florida Lawmakers Pass Landmark Legal Reform

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HB 837 heads to Governor’s desk

Today, Florida lawmakers passed a landmark legal reform bill that has the potential to rebalance the state’s legal system for many years to come.

House Bill 837 would require transparency in damages presented in court trials and is sponsored by Representative Tommy Gregory, a Republican of Manatee, and Representative Tom Fabricio, a Miami-Dade County Republican. A senate version of the bill was also introduced and sponsored by Senator Travis Hutson, a Palm Coast Republican.This will empower juries with critical information, address the abuse in the legal system using inflated medical damages, and create a more even playing field for all parties.

“We are thrilled to see Florida taking steps to ensure that all parties involved in civil lawsuits have access to accurate and comprehensive information regarding damages,” American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) President Tiger Joyce said.

During a trial, Florida jurors currently only hear evidence of the initially invoiced amount of medical expenses, which is essentially a “sticker price,” often three or more times the amount ultimately paid. This results in a large gap between the two amounts. With the current system, lawyers get to inflate the damage award and collect a larger contingency fee. H.B. 837 will ensure jurors receive accurate information on the actual value of medical expenses.

“We commend Governor Ron DeSantis, House Speaker Paul Renner, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, Representatives Gregory and Fabricio, Senator Travis Hutson and the full legislative leadership team for passing this important legislation to promote transparency in damages,” Joyce said. “These lawmakers have shown a strong commitment to ensuring that Florida’s legal system is fair, efficient, and effective, and I urge other states to look to Florida as an example and take steps to promote transparency in their legal systems.”

ATRA has been a nationwide leader on advocating for more transparency in damages. Since 2020, both Iowa and Montana enacted legislation addressing transparency in damages, while two recent Texas Supreme Court rulings, In re K & L Auto Crushers, LLC and In re Allstate Indemnity Co. reined in the exploitation of medical expense damages.

“Transparency in damages is critical to ensuring that the legal system is fair and just. When damages are not transparent, it can lead to confusion and misunderstandings, which can ultimately harm the integrity of the legal system,” Joyce said. “As the legal landscape continues to evolve, we remain committed to advocating for policies that promote fairness, transparency, and accountability in the legal system.”

ATRA notes that Florida’s progress has been years in the making. The state has a long history as a “Judicial Hellhole®,” with a legal system that has been plagued by excessive litigation, frivolous lawsuits, and outrageous damages. Florida was named the No. 1 Judicial Hellhole® in 2018 and No. 2 in 2019 by the American Tort Reform Foundation.

Several state Supreme Court appointments made by Governor DeSantis were a catalyst for positive change, resulting in ATRF removing Florida from the Judicial Hellholes® list in 2020. The Florida Legislature remains on the report’s “Watch List,” due to the need to make important improvements in the civil justice system, such as addressing transparency in damages.

“With the passage of House Bill 837, Florida is taking a significant step towards addressing these issues and restoring fairness to its legal system,” Joyce said. “I look forward to Governor DeSantis signing this one-of-a-kind tort reform package to solidify Florida as an example of a forward-looking state with a judicial system that is transparent, fair, and accountable for all.”

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