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American Tort Reform Foundation: Florida Making Progress From Being a Judicial Hellhole

Last week, the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF) named Florida a “Judicial Hellholes Point of Light,” recognizing the state’s significant progress and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ focus on legal reform.

“After years as a Judicial Hellhole, we are happy to acknowledge Florida as a Point of Light,” American Tort Reform Association President Tiger Joyce said. “Under the strong leadership of Governor DeSantis, improvements to Florida’s civil justice system over the past several years have moved the state forward, showing that protecting citizens from lawsuit abuse is a high priority.”

The state has a long history as a Judicial Hellhole, with a legal system plagued by excessive litigation, frivolous lawsuits, and outrageous damages. Florida was named the No. 1 Judicial Hellhole in 2018 and No. 2 in 2019. In total, various areas of the state and its government were named Judicial Hellholes 15 times and cited on the report’s “Watch List” six times.

Now, ATRF points to three key legislative successes as significant improvements to the state’s legal climate, marking meaningful progress toward reducing lawsuit abuse.

House Bill 837, sponsored by Representatives Tommy Gregory and Tom Fabricio, addresses transparency in damages, a critical issue that has plagued Florida’s legal system for far too long. 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 Senator Travis Hutson.

“We are grateful to Governor Ron DeSantis for his excellent leadership and perseverance in prioritizing legal reform in the Sunshine State,” Joyce said. “We also want to thank Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, House Speaker Paul Renner, and legislative bill sponsors for their dedication to civil justice reform and for recognizing the need and impact of lawsuit abuse on Floridians. Their efforts were critical to Florida’s recognition today as a Point of Light.”

Senate Bill 360, also sponsored by Hutson, is a construction defect bill that will shorten 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.

House Bill 1205, sponsored by Representative Alex Andrade, addresses truth in legal advertising and would regulate misleading legal services ads related to pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices. Both the House and the Senate passed H.B. 1205, which is expected to be sent to DeSantis soon. A senate version of the bill was also introduced and sponsored by Senator Clay Yarborough.

“We appreciate the lawmakers who brought this important bill before their colleagues to rein in misleading lawyer ads and are hopeful that the governor will sign H.B. 1205 into law to further improve Florida’s civil justice climate,” Joyce said.
Recent data from ATRA revealed that in 2022, an estimated $271.8 million was spent on TV, outdoor, radio, digital, and print ads for local legal services or soliciting legal claims in Florida. The state accounted for nearly 12 percent of all legal services advertising spending across the United States last year.

“Florida’s legislative successes during the 2023 session serve as an example for other states that find themselves on the Judicial Hellholes list year after year,” Joyce said. “We encourage others to follow Florida’s lead and take the necessary steps to protect their citizens from frivolous lawsuits and improve their legal climates.”

Research shows that the excessive tort costs in Florida’s civil justice system negatively impact the state’s economy, costing every Floridian more than $892 each year in a “tort tax.” However, the passage of these bills, along with other reforms, is expected to lessen lawsuit abuse that has plagued the state and hurt the economy.

In addition to legislative reforms, several state Supreme Court appointments made by DeSantis were a catalyst for positive change, resulting in ATRF removing Florida from the main Judicial Hellholes list in 2020.

“It is heartening to see leaders in Florida take the title of ‘Judicial Hellhole’ so seriously and attempt to right the ship,” Joyce said. “While it’s still early, it’s possible that come December, Florida may finally be removed from the report’s listings entirely.”

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  • Florida Daily

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