Legislature approves upping county lawsuit threshold

Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom
The bill would raise the maximum damages handled in county court cases to $30,000 on Jan. 1

The House and Senate voted unanimously Friday to for a bill that could see more lawsuits handled in county courts.

Since 1992 there has been a $15,000 limit on damages in civil suits, also called “small claims,” filed on the county level.

Lawsuits above that threshold are handled in circuit courts.

HB 337 would raise the maximum damages handled in county court cases to $30,000 on Jan. 1, 2020, and to $50,000 by Jan. 1, 2022. The $15,000 limit would remain in place for cases filed before Dec. 31, 2019.

Lawmakers have cited the current caseloads in circuit courts as the reason for the change.

“We have an overburdened circuit court at this point,” Sen. Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican, said last month.

The Florida Supreme Court has recommended the threshold be increased to $25,000. The Florida Justice Reform Institute noted the high court found the increase to $50,000 to be of most concern.

With Friday’s votes, the bill heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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