2017 - 2018
As expected, the past two-year cycle saw a trial bar on the offense, as FJRI fought bill after bill designed to expand liability and litigation or deflect consideration of business-oriented proposals on similar topics.
In 2017, FJRI led the opposition to mandatory prejudgment interest that if enacted would force defendants to settle meritless cases, FJRI also weighed in where few dared to tread, opposing and defeating judicial term limits, a leadership priority.
In 2018, FJRI successfully worked to defeat numerous trial bar priorities, including: bills to replace auto no-fault with higher-limit mandatory liability and medical payments coverages, but naturally without any bad faith reform; bills to repeal Florida’s long-standing nonjoinder statute that prevents prejudicing juries into making unreasonably large awards based on the defendant’s “deep pocket”; and, bills that would have raised the county court jurisdiction limits from $15,000 to $50,000, placing more complex cases with less experienced county court judges, and increasing the appellate burden for circuit courts unprepared to deal with the caseload.
In recent years, the FJRI has unified the state’s business community to collectively advocate for civil justice reforms that restore fairness and predictability to Florida’s courts.
FJRI has led the way on several long-term, "big lift" battles on a handful of top priorities. These have included accuracy in damages, so that juries hear all the evidence regarding the actual cost and value of rendered medical treatment before making an award; fair settlement of insurance claims, to provide clear guidelines before a plaintiff can file a bad faith lawsuit and assignment of benefits, to ensure that policyholders remain in control of all their insurance rights and benefits.
FJRI has also increasingly fought defensive actions on issues supported by trial attorneys, that propose to increase the cost and frequency of litigation. These have included mandatory prejudgment interest and mandated rental car liability insurance, as well as emerging issues like drone liability.
We've also continued to support the full implementation of the Daubert expert evidence standard passed by the legislature in 2013.
During the 2013 session, capping a multi-year effort by FJRI, lawmakers replaced Florida’s 90-year-old expert evidence standard with the modern Daubert standard used in all federal courts and many states’ courts. Unlike the old standard that allowed the admission of pure opinion, under Daubert, judges act as “gatekeepers” and are responsible for ensuring that expert evidence presented in court is relevant, reliable, and based on sound science. This historic achievement will help put an end to the forum shopping that imports litigation into Florida.
Medical Liability Reform
FJRI successfully supported legislation that ensures a physician’s right to legal counsel, and requires expert witnesses to practice in the same specialty as the defendant.
During the 2012 legislative session FJRI helped lead the charge to reform Florida’s broken Personal Injury Protection (PIP) system.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
This year, FJRI pushed successfully to end the practice of exponentially increasing litigation costs associated with Florida’s personal injury protection insurance by removing the use of attorney fee multipliers. These fee multipliers benefited attorneys at the expense of consumers and were costing insurers and Florida drivers millions of dollars.
During the 2011 session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 142, repealing the state's antiquated crashworthiness doctrine in cases brought against automobile manufacturers for vehicle malfunctions when there is an accident. Previous rulings prevented Florida juries from apportioning fault in accidents, meaning they couldn't consider a driver's fault in the accident, even if he was drunk, texting and otherwise distracted while driving. Under the new law, juries will be able to consider all of the facts, when determining fault in accidents where there was an alleged automobile design defect.
Medical Liability Reform
FJRI championed medical malpractice reforms during the 2011 legislative session.
Sinkhole Litigation Reform
During session, FJRI successfully incorporated provisions into the omnibus property insurance bill that shore up definitions of what would actually constitute a sinkhole claim and increases the burden on the plaintiff to actually prove their damages were, indeed, caused by a sinkhole.
During the 2010 session, FJRI continued to help lead the business community's efforts to restore fairness and predictability to the state's civil justice system. During the 2010 Legislation Session FJRI achieved several critical successes.
Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting
State attorney generals, including the Florida Attorney General, have the power to hire private attorneys to sue on the state's behalf, and compensate these attorneys through the use of contingency fee agreements. This compensation comes out of the state's coffers without first going through an appropriations process, and is subtracted from judgments awarded to the state for damages incurred by the people of Florida.
During the 2010 session, FJRI was a strong advocate for legislation championed by then Attorney General Bill McCollum, that ensures there is transparency in private attorney contracts with the state. The new law caps the amount private attorneys can collect in fees, preventing money rightfully owed to the state from being diverted to over compensate private attorneys.
Slip and Fall Reform
During the 2010 Session, FJRI championed reforms to the state's slip-and-fall laws to restore standards of constructive notice for businesses without forfeiting sound protections for injured business patrons.
In recent years, Florida businesses were experiencing a considerable increase in exposure to predatory lawsuits as a result of a 2002 law, which removed the requirement that a plaintiff prove that a business had knowledge of the existence of an transitory foreign substance that presented a danger to patrons and could cause them to "slip-and-fall."
In 2010, FJRI led the charge to pass the new law adopting a reasonable framework for slip-and-fall liability and restoring a logical standard of constructive notice.
Parental Liability Waivers
During the 2010 session, FJRI helped restore the rights of parents to sign a liability waiver on behalf of their minor child.
A 2008 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court in Kirton vs. Fields compromised the enforceability of pre-injury release forms, also know as liability waivers, signed by a parent and given to a service provider when their child participated in a specified activity.
The new law takes into account the rights of children to have access to these activities and the ability of a parent to make decisions in the best interest of their child, understanding there is some inherent risk when children participate in activities like riding ATVs, scuba diving and even playing sports.
Workers' Compensation Reform
The entire business community was united in support of the passage HB 903, which restores critical workers' compensation reforms passed in 2003, which were undone by the Florida Supreme Court ruling, Murray vs. Mariners Health.
HB 903 clarifies the limit on excessive attorneys' fees and ensures the well being of millions of hardworking Floridians, businesses, and the state's overall economy.
In 2008, FJRI identified several legislative priorities that built on past civil justice, like the abolishment of joint and several liability, reforming the state's bad faith laws, providing sovereign immunity to emergency medical providers and ensuring that expert witness testimony presented in Florida's courts is reliable and relevant.
FJRI also successfully blocked several attempts by trial lawyers during the legislative session to enact sweeping reforms to Florida's arbitration system. Their proposals would have detrimentally altered Florida's arbitration system and the ability for businesses and consumers to settle without going to court.
During the legislative session FJRI defended civil justice on behalf of Florida's business community by blocking several initiatives pushed by the Florida Trial Bar that would have undone civil justice reforms passed in recent years and advanced the ability for trial attorneys to target businesses for lawsuits.
FJRI successfully blocked several attempts by the Trial Bar to repeal the so-called "Fabre Doctrine" during the legislative session -- which would have abolished the 2006 joint and several liability reforms.
During the 2006 legislative session, FJRI helped pass some of the most significant civil justice reforms in the state's history.
Repeal of Joint and Several Liability
On April 26, 206, Governor Jeb Bush put an end to a 33-year struggle to restore fairness and predictability to Florida's civil justice system by signing HB 145, repealing the unfair doctrine of joint and several liability.
HB 145 ended the unjust and illogical mismatch of two disparate legal concepts: comparative fault and joint and several liability.
Now, defendants are no longer forced to pay more than their fair share of damages when another defendant cannot pay.
The repeal of joint and several liability was a historic first step in restoring fairness, common sense, and predictability to Florida's civil justice system.
Class Action Lawsuit Reform
The FJRI also successfully passed HB 7259, limiting class action lawsuits to Florida residents with limited exceptions.
The legislation leaves the doors of Florida's courts open to real victims, while providing judges with the tools needed to throw out unjustified class action lawsuits.
In 2005, FJRI helped the business community pass several key civil justice reforms.
Asbestos and Silica Compensation Act
HB 1019 ensured that only truly sick patients, and not healthy litigants who were merely exposed at some point in their life, will have access to the available compensation for asbestos-related illnesses.
Street Lights Liability Reform
HB 135 provided limited liability for street light providers from lawsuits stemming from recently burned-out lights.