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Floridians for Lawsuit Reform backs legal climate reform bill

The group wants an end to fee multipliers

Floridians for Lawsuit Reform launched a website Tuesday, FLTortReform.com, to raise awareness on the need for lawsuit reform in the state.

According to the nonprofit, the state’s legal climate would improve if fewer property insurance lawsuits were filed. Currently, about 50,000 such lawsuits are filed every year.

One way of slashing that number is reducing the financial incentives for trial lawyers to take advantage of Florida homeowners.

According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform’s 2019 Lawsuit Climate Survey, Florida ranks 46 out of 50 and is one of the top five worst states for unfair and unreasonable legal environments.

Florida law allows lawyers to receive “fee multipliers” for their work on common property insurance claims. That means an attorney can pocket up to 30 times more in fees than the families they represent in an insurance dispute.

When insurers pay those fees, they are forced to pass them on to policyholders, resulting in higher premiums. Floridians for Lawsuit Reform said rates could climb 10-fold over the next 10 years if the multiplier is left in place.

And the high premiums have the potential to hurt all Floridians, too. If legal fee burdens force an insurer into insolvency, homeowners would have to get policies from another company. If they can’t, the state would have to step in and insure them through state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which would pass the costs on to Florida taxpayers.

The group said SB 914, sponsored by St. Pete Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, would address the problem head-on by requiring courts to use the “lodestar method,” which calculates fees by considering the number of hours reasonably spent by an attorney at a reasonable hourly rate.

The bill would bring other legal fee reforms, including a prohibition on contingency risk or using a contingency risk multiplier, a common tactic used by attorneys to collect higher fees.

The website launch also includes a parody video featuring a lawyer explaining how fee multipliers are abused.

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