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Legal group says raising limit on civil suit damages 'goes beyond recommendation' from state court

By Carrie Bradon | Jun 20, 2019


TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 337 into law May 24, which will raise the limit for damages in civil suits that are currently filed at the county level.

According to FloridaPolitics.com, HB337 will raise the damages for county court cases to $30,000 by Jan. 1, 2020 and $50,000 by Jan. 1, 2022. The current limit of $15,000 will remain in place for all cases that have been filed prior to Dec. 31, 2019.

Although the bill has been largely met with support, some groups oppose the changes it would bring, fearing that the disbursement of cases will be too disruptive to courts that will be unable to handle the onslaught of cases due to increase damages.

The Florida Justice Reform Institute, for example, has been outspoken in their opposition to the new limits set by HB337.

“While the institute shares the legislation’s goal of making Florida’s civil justice system more efficient, the impacts of increasing county court jurisdiction on workload and circuit court appellate jurisdiction require greater consideration before any adjustment is made law,” William Large, president of FJRI told Florida Record. 

Large fears that by increasing the damage limits, county courts will be unable to handle as many cases as before, which will overburden the larger courts.

“Increasing the jurisdictional limit of county courts would also increase the number of appeals sent to circuit courts instead of the state’s main appellate courts, the district court of appeals,” Large said.

FJRI believes that the jurisdictional limits set by HB337 are too vast and should be more modest, raising them only to $25,000, which would result in a workload that could be better handled by the court system’s current resources. 

“The Florida Supreme Court recommended a modest increase in the jurisdictional limit to $25,000 and further review of that amount in five years,” Large said, “Unfortunately, HB337 goes beyond that recommendation.”