Republican lawmakers were among those on Wednesday hailing a study promoting the benefits of tort reform.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses, a nationwide association of small businesses, has consistently bemoaned the “poor legal climate” in Florida and other states, and tort reform would help by capping what the group deems to be unreasonable damages that could wreck small businesses.
On Wednesday, the NFIB-allied Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse rolled out its “2019 lawsuit climate survey,” which found each household took a $4,442 hit yearly from inflated torts.
The $33.65 billion cost is 3.6% of Florida’s GDP.
Expenditures, go the claim, are decreased by over $30 billion a year, with another $15 billion lost in gross product and $10 billion in personal income, and 160,000+ lost jobs. The claim is that there is a nearly $720 “tort tax” on each individual also.
Speakers sounded the alarm and called for reform in what has become an annual tradition.
Bill Herrle, executive director of NFIB, said the goal was to “remedy” the tort tax in Florida.
“The numbers should get attention,” Herrle said, including $811 million in “lost state revenue.”
Herrle wants a “clear-eyed look at the total cost of our civil justice system” in that context.
Sen. Doug Broxson, who chairs Banking and Insurance, noted a “run of withdrawals” from insurance companies that “raid the bank” and “take money from other constituents in the state.”
“If we don’t continue to pound away at the message,” Broxson said, “we are in deep, deep trouble.”
Rep. Bob Rommel, who chairs the Civil Justice Subcommittee, said that “to be ranked 46th … we haven’t had the appetite in the House, the Senate, or maybe the Governor’s Office” to change it.
Rommel noted that assignment of benefits reform took seven years to move, suggesting these reforms are a heavy lift.
Reps. Bobby Payne, Anthony Sabatini, and Sam Killebrew were also on hand.
Accuracy in damages legislation and “truth in trial lawyers” bills are among the priorities for this year.