In-depth analysis unveils trial lawyers’ staggering advertising and political spending, exposing tactics used to shape public opinion and legal outcomes.
Florida No Longer a Judicial Hellhole®, Named Point of Light in Annual Report
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In a groundbreaking announcement, the American Tort Reform Foundation designates Florida a “Judicial Hellholes® Point of Light” today in its annual report, marking its official removal from the reports ranks and shedding its “Judicial Hellhole®” title.
Lawmakers’ exceptional strides in passing legal reform bills this year paired with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s focus on improving the civil justice system led to the significant accomplishment.
“After years as a Judicial Hellhole®, we are happy to acknowledge Florida as a Point of Light,” Tiger Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association said. “We are grateful for the leadership of Gov. DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner, as well as the dedication shown by the bill sponsors, Reps. Gregory, Fabricio, Andrade and Sens. Hutson and Yarborough. Their dedication to civil justice reform and understanding of the need and impact of lawsuit abuse on Floridians were critical to Florida’s transformation into a Point of Light.”
Florida has a storied history as a Judicial Hellhole®, marked by excessive litigation, frivolous lawsuits, and outrageous damages. The state secured the No. 1 Judicial Hellhole® position in 2018 and No. 2 in 2019. Various areas of the state and its government were named Judicial Hellholes® 15 times, with six appearances on the report’s “Watch List.”
The latest designation reflects Florida’s transformative legislative session in 2023, with ATRF pointing to three key bills as pivotal in reshaping the state’s legal climate.
Key Legislative Reforms
Sponsored by Reps. Tommy Gregory and Tom Fabricio, H.B. 837 addressed transparency in damages. This legislation ensures that juries are informed about the costs of medical treatments and that verdicts are based on accurate and transparent information. The bill also reforms the state’s comparative negligence system, bad faith framework, eliminates contingency fee multipliers in attorneys’ fees, one-way attorney fee provisions, and reduces the statute of limitations for general negligence cases. A senate version of the bill was also introduced and sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson.
Also sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson, this construction defect bill shortens the timeline for when a lawsuit can be filed, providing greater clarity and predictability to the construction industry while bringing Florida in line with standard practices in a majority of other states.
Sponsored by Rep. Alex Andrade, H.B. 1205 addresses truth in legal advertising and regulates misleading legal services ads related to pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices. The new law prohibits presenting ads as “medical alerts,” incorrectly suggesting product recalls, and the use of government logos suggesting agency-endorsed information. It also requires ads targeting FDA-approved prescription drugs or medical devices to indicate that the product remains approved and warn viewers to consult a physician before making decisions regarding prescribed medication or treatment. A senate version of the bill was also introduced and sponsored by Sen. Clay Yarborough.
In 2022, an estimated $271.8 million was spent on legal services advertising in Florida. The state accounted for nearly 12% of all legal services advertising spending across the U.S. last year.
“This year’s historic success in the legislature to improve Florida’s civil justice system shows that protecting citizens from lawsuit abuse is a high priority for Florida’s elected officials,” Joyce said. “These new laws will protect Florida consumers from misleading trial lawyer advertisements and various abuses that have economically strained Florida families for years.”
Research indicates that excessive tort costs in Florida negatively impact the state’s economy, costing every Floridian more than $892 each year in a “tort tax.” The recent legislative reforms are expected to mitigate lawsuit abuse and contribute to economic recovery.
In addition to legislative reforms, several state Supreme Court appointments made by DeSantis were instrumental in removing Florida from the Judicial Hellholes® list.
“We encourage others that find themselves on the Judicial Hellholes® list year after year to follow Florida’s lead,” Joyce said. “It’s possible to turn the tide and take the necessary steps to protect your citizens from frivolous lawsuits and improve your legal climates.”
For more information about Florida’s historic success, visit JudicialHellholes.org.
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