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William Large

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Florida named a Point of Light by American Tort Reform Foundation

By Juliette Fairley - May 11, 2023 

After a long history of landing the top spot on the American Tort Reform Foundation’s Judicial Hellhole, Florida has become a Point of Light, and a tort reform advocate credits Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“I give full credit to Governor Ron DeSantis and leadership in the Florida House and Senate,” said William W. Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, a lobbying organization in Tallahassee. “Governor DeSantis paved the way in changing the direction of the state of Florida.”

ATRF previously ranked Florida at No. 1 in 2018 and No. 2 in 2019 because of its excessive litigation, frivolous lawsuits, and outrageous damages.

Now, Florida does not appear on the list at all.

“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,” American Tort Reform Association President Tiger Joyce said.

The Sunshine State’s legal climate was improved by a tort reform package signed into law by DeSantis.

The legislation includes the following:

House Bill 837 eliminated contingency fee multipliers in attorneys’ fees, one-way attorney fee provisions, and reduced the statute of limitations for general negligence cases.

“There was a perverse incentive that no longer exists,” Large told the Florida Record. “The perverse incentive was found in the one-way attorney fee provision and there would be a multiplier on top of that.”

 A one-way attorney fee allowed for an award of attorney fees to prevailing parties involved in an insurance dispute.  

Senate Bill 360 shortens the timeline for when a construction defect lawsuit can be filed.

“A statute of repose is different than a statute of limitation, which is triggered when you knew or should have known about a claim in the construction arena but a statute of repose is like a brick wall that you can't get past in Florida and that was 10 years,” Large said in an interview. “It was just reduced to seven years.”

House Bill 1205, approved by the House and the Senate, is expected to be signed by DeSantis. Once enacted, it would regulate legal services ads related to pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices.

“The problem that we saw in Florida were ads done by non-attorneys, which were really legal aggregators,” Large added. “The Florida Bar does an excellent job of policing ads by members of the Florida Bar but we live in a world today where on cable television an ad can be broadcast in the state of Florida, and it's not done by a Florida attorney but it reaches a Florida audience. This bill is meant to address those situations, and I think it's very important.”