Sal Nuzzo, Christian Camara: The fleecing of Floridians, Part II

Insurance policy contract concept with toy model cars having a crash. Auto insurance, car insurance, PIP, no-fault.
When fraudulent and frivolous litigation piles up, every one of us pays the price.

Foundations of Fraud

Late on a June evening in 2017, Sarah Kelly was rushed to the emergency room after her car swerved and sent her into a tree.

There wasn’t anyone else in the car with her and nobody else was on the road. It was a tragic case of hydroplaning leading to overcorrection resulting in an awful injury. As her family prayed for a miracle, a trial attorney saw an opportunity. Seeing a Facebook post about the incident from Sarah’s sister, the attorney immediately reached out, seeking to get access to the car.

“If we can check out the tire treads, and a few other items, we may be able to help you. Your family could reap a pretty sizable settlement.”

Sarah survived but is now paralyzed. And as tragic as her case is, there was no negligence. There was nobody else at legal fault. There was no reason anyone should have suggested that she pursue civil litigation. Just a slick attorney recognizing Florida’s rules on negligence and attorney’s fees meant they could prey upon a family in emotional crisis.

This is just one example of the egregious tactics being deployed as a result of Florida’s civil litigation rules. It represents one of the myriad methods that billboard trial attorneys in Florida have turned our court system into a cash cow for their own benefit. They’re fleecing us all and few realize it.

When fraudulent and frivolous litigation piles up, every one of us pays the price.

There’s a reason Florida’s auto insurance rates are among the highest in the U.S. There is also a reason, according to testimony offered in committee, that 99% of all of State Farm’s litigation related to auto glass price disparities in the U.S. occurs in Florida. It isn’t because State Farm is graciously offering up deals to its policyholders in 49 other states or because Florida has an inordinate amount of car crashes and cracked windshields. It’s because Florida’s unique rules governing lawsuits like these have turned the Sunshine State into the Settlement State, garnering six-figure payouts for trial attorneys in a cottage industry of barely legal fraud.

These litigation rules make it next to impossible to challenge the thousands upon thousands of nuisance suits — so companies accept it as the price for operating in Florida and elect to settle rather than incurring the cost of hiring countless lawyers and risking massive judgments. And then they do what they must to cover the financial losses: hike Florida policyholder rates.

Then those actually causing the problem cynically turn around and blame “those big bad insurance companies. The formula has been working for decades. And consequently, billboard trial attorneys go on dialing the cellphones of family members waiting in an ER to hear if their loved one survived.

This is why House Bill 837 and SB 236 are so overdue. The proposal is transformational for Florida. Led by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner, HB 837 and SB 236 finally put Florida on the right trajectory for civil litigation. The sponsors of the legislation, Reps. Tommy Gregory and Tom Fabricio and Sen. Travis Hutson, are David taking on an army of Billboard Goliaths. Presenting the bill before its first committee hearing, Reps. Gregory and Fabricio endured more than four hours of comments from all levels of astroturf groups shuttled up by the worst of our trial bar offenders — many of whom were there for the day trip to Tallahassee and a couple of free meals with little understanding of how they had been misled.

Sitting in its first committee hearing, it was abundantly clear what was transpiring. Several tragic cases of negligence and wrongdoing were presented to the committee, each person seeking to make a connection between what happened to them (or their loved one) and the language of the bill. The emotional appeals were strong and very compelling. If only they had any connection to what HB 837 and SB 236 actually does, it would give even us pause. But that isn’t the case. It isn’t the case at all.

Make absolutely no mistake about it. The reforms proposed in HB 837 and SB 236 are designed to help each of those individuals who spoke before the House Civil Justice Committee opposing the bill. This legislation will help bring common sense and sanity to our civil litigation system by aligning Florida’s litigation laws with other states and allowing those harmed by the negligence of others the ability to access our court system to get the relief they deserve.

The only ones clamoring to keep the status quo are those handsomely profiting from it — and they are utterly untroubled by the rest of us paying the freight on their scheme. They’re not for Floridians, they’re just for their own deep pockets.


Sal Nuzzo is senior vice president of The James Madison Institute.

Christian Camara is an adjunct fellow and scholar for The James Madison Institute.

This is Part II of a series of articles outlining the policy challenges within Florida’s civil litigation environment.

Guest Author


  • Emma The Dog

    March 6, 2023 at 10:51 am

    Hi there I’m John’s favorite dog Emma. We get this subject of trial attorneys needing Florida laws passed to reel us in around every other legislative session. What we do each time the subject raises it’s ugly head is contribute around $200,000.00 dollars into every Florida Legislature members untraceable and totally legal political action committee. Its kind of insulting to my master John but I have been advising him to just shut up and pay up as a cost of doing business as the largest law firm in Florida. You know as John always says size matters, just dial #LAW on your phone, you only pay if we win.
    Thanks Emma

  • cassandra

    March 6, 2023 at 3:27 pm

    Chris and Sally: You both need to stop writing ads! Your column is actually painful to read. You have written for the gullible but it’s difficult to believe even they will fall for this corporate propaganda.

    You fail to mention that 837 and 236 will make it nearly impossible for the next “Sarah Kelly” to sue—- even if corporate negligence is the *only* cause of her injuries.

    And if the victim manages to sue, the law you are pushing won’t even allow her attorney to tell the jury what her actual medical costs have been; The jurors will hear only her co-payment amounts!, leaving them unaware of the extent of her injuries and her projected lifetime medical costs.

    In other words, the corporate lawyers’ plan is that no matter the severity of corporate caused injuries, the plaintiff will receive only co-pay reimbursement! And as for pain and suffering—whether the victim ends up in a wheelchair, or her child in an ICU—- greedy, unsafe businesses plan to avoid any financial responsibility. This law would harm victims and families.

    Tell your legislators to vote NO on the bills.
    The current system worked in “Sarah Kelly’s” case. It works in most.


Comments are closed.


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