Gov. DeSantis signs sweeping legal reforms passed by Legislature
Image via the Governor's Office

DeSantis signs tort bill
The bill quietly became law Friday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis quickly signed a bill containing sweeping limits on lawsuits (HB 837).

The tort bill is a priority for DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner.

“Florida has been considered a judicial hellhole for far too long and we are desperately in need of legal reform that brings us more in line with the rest of the country,” DeSantis said in a statement on the bill signing. “I am proud to sign this legislation to protect Floridians, safeguard our economy and attract more investment in our state.”

“The vast majority of attorneys work very hard to provide sound legal representation for Floridians in these difficult circumstances,” Passidomo added.

“Unfortunately, there are a few bad actors who are in the business to draw out civil cases as long as possible, collecting more and more fees from insurance companies. Litigation drives up the basic costs of goods and services for everyone across all areas of industry and commerce. Under the leadership of Gov. DeSantis, we have taken many steps to help keep Florida affordable for growing families and seniors. This legislation further those efforts striking the right balance and protect the rights of Floridians who suffer a loss, while at the same time safeguarding everyone else against the hidden costs of prolonged litigation.”

The bill makes substantive changes to how lawsuits are filed and litigated in the state, all but eliminating the longstanding statute that allows a policyholder who successfully sues their insurance company to recoup their attorney fees.

The new law also modifies the state’s comparative negligence system so that a plaintiff found to be more than 50% responsible for their own injury cannot recover damages. The measure also adjusts Florida’s bad-faith rules so that insurance companies cannot be sued for bad faith if, before a complaint is filed or within 90 days of being notified of the complaint, they tendered the lesser of the policy limits or the amount demanded by the claimant.

“Thank you Gov. DeSantis for signing transformational legislation to end lawsuit abuse,” Renner said.

“This legislation prevents frivolous lawsuits and allows good claims to move forward. These reforms make our economy more competitive and Florida more affordable for our citizens and businesses. Thank you to House sponsors Tommy Gregory and Tom Fabricio for your leadership on this bill.”

It’s the first bill of the 2023 Legislative Session that DeSantis has signed. While the Governor often calls a press conference to sign legislation, this bill was signed without any fanfare.

But Reps. Fabricio and Gregory, who sponsored the House bill signed by the Governor, both attended Friday’s closed-door ceremony to sign the measure.

“The reforms Gov. DeSantis signed into law returns Florida’s tort system to fundamental American judicial principles that the most responsible pay for the damages they caused and trusts juries to fairly decide cases,” Gregory said.

Added Fabricio, “This legislation brings balance to the system and protects the legal rights of Floridians to access to the courts while reducing the number of frivolous lawsuits.”

Sen. Travis Hutson, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, also released a Friday statement praising the changes.

“For too long Florida families have shouldered the hidden cost of lawsuit abuse as Florida’s litigation environment has cost jobs and driven up the cost of goods and services,” Hutson said.

“This legislation contains the most meaningful and robust reforms in decades, making numerous changes to Florida’s arduous civil system that will provide transparency to jurors, shorten the time people toil away in civil court, and eliminate unfair practices that bad actors have abused.”

The bill was championed by insurance and business lobbyists and was opposed by the Florida Justice Association (FJA), which represents the state’s trial lawyers. Curry Pajcic, President of the Florida Justice Association, hammered the legislation in a Friday statement.

“The new law does nothing to protect Floridians and everything to protect the profits of billionaire insurance corporations,” Pajcic said. “The process by which the sweeping reforms were considered was concerning to the FJA and our members, as well as numerous other parties who publicly opposed the bill at every committee stop in the process.”

Prior to the bill becoming law, the Florida Chamber of Commerce announced it had launched a legal defense fund, anticipating the FJA will challenge the new law in court.

Florida Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Wilson said in a prepared release that the “personal injury lawyer industry has habitually used the courts to undo the work and intent of the Legislature and the citizens of Florida those elected officials represent.”

“This is evidenced by legal challenges to several of the most impactful recent legal reforms in Florida — from workers’ comp to medical malpractice to the repeal of joint and several liability and others — which all faced legal delays upon being signed into law,” he added.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


15 comments

  • cassandra

    March 24, 2023 at 3:19 pm

    Cannot wait to hear what great things Republican FP readers think this bill is going to do for them.. lol

  • Donald E. L. Johnson

    March 24, 2023 at 10:35 pm

    If the HB 837 bill does half of what its sponsors promise and its opponents warn against, this bill should help Gov. DeSantis and its GOP legislative supporters win a lot of elections.

    As the late Chicago Mayor Daley often declared, “Good government is good politics.”

    By signing the bill after championing it, Gov. DeSantis showed Florida that we can have “good government.”

    This is an example of how a strong governor can lead his legislature and serving all of their constituents.

    There is no question that long-term the law will slow the rise in property and casually insurance premiums. It will make it easier to get done things done and done well at lower costs.

    And it is forcing the “bad actors” among tort lawyers to rethink their business strategies, tactics and careers.

    They may find that under the new law, it will be easier for them to live with themselves, I think.

    People like to think insurers have deep pockets and suing them is like winning the lottery. But suing insurers drives up the cost of insurance, making it more difficult for businesses to grow and create new jobs. Frivolous law suits cheat everybody.

    Hopefully, the new law will give insurers who have all but abandoned the state because of the old laws to come back.

    If they do that, there will be more competition in the property and casualty insurance markets, and that will be better for everyone’s pocket book.

    That Democrats opposed the tort law reforms shows that they are for the elite, rich tort lawyers who contribute to their political campaigns, not for the “little guys”, I think.

    • cassandra

      March 25, 2023 at 6:38 pm

      You obviously have not read the legislation. It takes away Floridians’ right to hold $$Billion insurance corporations accountable. It is DeSantis’ gift to the powerful Insurance Industry in return for the industry’s gifts to him.

      BTW, Corporations have full-time unscrupulous lawyers fighting against the “little guys”. Injured victims need attorneys, too.

      • Andrew Podray

        March 28, 2023 at 10:25 am

        Cassandra, you really have NO CLUE what you are talking about. I own several small businesses in the state and I get sued MONTHLY. Why do you think that attorneys advertise ALL DAY LONG on TV on buses / on billboards, they are fleacing our state and they are using people like you (that don’t have a clue) to get rich. THEY are getting rich off the insurance companies, not you.

    • Mike Knudstrup

      March 25, 2023 at 6:45 pm

      Excellent points Donald. Thank you for making them. Kind of humorous that one of the few Republicans voting against this was a personal injury lawyer.

  • Mike Knudstrup

    March 25, 2023 at 7:00 am

    I really never thought I’d see the day that lawyers would rein in their fellows. We are a litigious state. All you have to do is drive down the highway and see all the lawyer billboards. It’s great if you win the lawsuit lottery but the average person pays about $2000 extra a year for frivolous lawsuits and huge judgments. Everything you buy including insurance and products have a lawsuit tax on it. Let’s not even include all of the products or services that aren’t even considered due to the risk of lawsuits. We’ve tried the other way, now let’s give this 4 or 5 years to see how it goes.

    • cassandra

      March 25, 2023 at 7:12 pm

      My 7:08pm comment is a reply to your thoughtless remarks

      • Mike Knudstrup

        March 26, 2023 at 2:24 pm

        Writes the person who does not have enough courage to give her real name. Just another Internet smart aleck.

      • Andrew Podray

        March 28, 2023 at 10:26 am

        My guess is that Cassandra has NEVER owned commercial real estate / apartment buildings and really has NO CLUE what she is talkign about.

        • Mike Knudstrup

          March 28, 2023 at 1:34 pm

          I don’t completely understand the logic that “insurance companies are ripping people off”. First, there is a fairly competitive marketplace for insurance. Second, insurance companies aren’t leaving the state because they’re making money hand over fist. Why would any rational business leave under those circumstances? The logic defies me.

  • cassandra

    March 25, 2023 at 7:08 pm

    Lottery? Your one honest comment. Victims of corporate negligence should not be forced to depend on luck in order to hold the powerful insurance industry accountable. This legislation takes away Floridians’ rights.

  • Norman

    March 27, 2023 at 8:03 am

    When I was a Florida landlord I was regularly sued for frivilous claims.
    Here’s one:
    A tenant sued us because she claimed she had fallen down the 2 steps from the back of her house into the yard because the steps collapsed.
    It turned out that the wooden steps had collapsed because she had a chained two pitbulls to them, one to each side and they had pulled them apart. There was also a “no dog” clause in her lease.
    No money for her.

  • Linda

    March 27, 2023 at 9:10 am

    This bill along with the changes to personal injury laws in Florida hurt Floridians because they fear having to pay losses because judges LOVE summary judgements to get things through their courts & clearout backlogs & to hell with the injured who won’t get their day in court because insurance companies use carefully worded depositions to focus a judges attention to their way of thinking while the injured are misled into thinking justice is fair – ithis bill holds victims in fear of the justice system not for fairness under the law

    • Norman

      March 27, 2023 at 10:12 am

      Linda:
      Many years ago I visited one of my properties and the tenant was wearing both a neck brace and a big smile. I asked him what happened. He told me that he had been on a city bus that was in an accident. An attorney had sent him to a cooperating doctor who had given him a neck brace to wear to support his claim for imaginary injuries.
      He was smiling because he was expecting a big payout.

  • Rahar

    April 3, 2023 at 4:16 pm

    With all due respect to you, All… You have all experienced some awful stufff? As to the gentleman with the rash of lawsuits, that is awful! What business are you in so I can avoid it–no joke. You sound like someone who is being targeted. I hope you win all frivolous suits and your lawyers invoke Florida statute 57.105, which requires the judge to dismiss the frivolous cases and the other side pay you your fees.
    I am a small business owner and also know a thing or two about the law. If a person sues me and his claim has no merit, he gets a to sue me–that is all. If a person’s or corporation’s negligence injures me sufficiently, I seek compensation from them and any company that insures them. I know my rights. When insurance Co doesn’t want to defend me in a lawsuit or refuses to pay for things it should, the insurance gets a lawsuit and a trial, and if I lose, it is all I get- a fair trial. But if a group of jurors (after hearing all the evidence) decided that I am right, they pay. How much?
    The difference with the new law is that whether the insurance company is right or wrong (even if it acted in bad faith–which is gross behavior), under the new law, I have to pay my attorney from the money the insurance company owed me in the first place. How can I can’t afford to pay a lawyer $10,000 to fight an insurance company for a year and go to trial to recover $5,000 in roof damage –especially after the insurance company cleverly offers to pay 50% of the damage knowing that no lawyer will take my case for 33% of $2500. Under the old law things were fair: if I recovered more that 50% of the $2500, the insurance company paid all my attorney fees. But if I did not recover at least 50% of the difference between what I wanted and what the insurance had offered, I was responsible for my own fees.
    SOMEHOW, our government thought that was unfair to insurance companies.
    Now, I pay no matter how wrong the insurance company was about denying or reducing the benefits I paid premiums for.
    So you see, no matter what law is in effect, the insurance company wins. In the old system it charged us more to ensure it made a profit. Under the new system, it pays less to ensure it makes a profit.
    We need more empathy and respect for each other, so we can speak intelligently. Most of us, don’t take the time to analyze why the other person opines in certain way. It is why stupid, dumb bills keep become law…every time a party gains majority control another bad idea passes with a promise of a quick fix. No meaningful or substantive negotiations.
    Unless your house is among people with plenty of money, I believe (but hope it doesn’t happen) that soon most Floridians will be living in neighborhoods with mismatching roof tiles and damaged homes. There is NO longer an incentive for insurance companies to pay a claim in full, which is counter to their duty to maximize profits. With partial payments and having to pay attorneys and adjusters, people will be left with nothing to fix the home after they win.
    As to the lawyer bus ads and billboards: some people just embarrass themselves and their profession, but you can find that in any profession–look at modern-day politicians by way of example…and their advertising.

Comments are closed.


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