Florida Truckers Celebrate New Law Targeting Lawsuit Abuse
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After years of hard work, the Florida Trucking Association and truckers are celebrating a law signed March 24 by Gov. Ron DeSantis that sends a crushing blow to a cottage industry there of unscrupulous attorneys targeting companies with frivolous lawsuits.
“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. “I am proud to sign this legislation to protect Floridians, safeguard our economy and attract more investment in our state.”
The governor’s office stated that the law, which took effect immediately, “prevents predatory practices of trial attorneys that prey on hardworking Floridians.” It also modifies a bad-faith framework, eliminates one-way attorney fees and fee multipliers, and “ensures that Floridians can’t be held liable for damages if the person suing is more at fault.”
“It is a historic day in Florida,”said Alix Miller, CEO of FTA. “Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo came together in an unprecedented manner to stop lawsuit abuse.”
She added, “It includes three major priorities of FTA that we identified and lobbied to include: transparency of medical damages, modified comparative negligence and changing the statute of limitations from four to two years.”
The 39-page omnibus bill (S/CS/House Bill 837: Civil Remedies) provides sweeping reforms to Florida’s legal framework. The law stops plaintiffs’ attorneys from introducing fictitious and inflated medical bills at trial.
“For decades, the trucking industry has been driven out of business because unscrupulous attorneys were allowed to take advantage of an unfair judicial system,” Miller said. “With the signing of this legislation into law, Florida is taking a major step in shutting down billboard lawyers and strengthening our supply chain and economy.”
Miller and three FTA members attended the signing ceremony.
.@FloridaTrucking was proud to be represented by members, Jimmy Davis of @DavisExpress, Matthew Penland of @CypressTruck, and Rendy Taylor of @TruckingShelton, as @GovRonDeSantis signed major tort reform into law today. pic.twitter.com/n4isj4Pfsy — Florida Trucking Association (@FloridaTrucking) March 24, 2023
“On behalf of the entire trucking industry,” she said, “we thank Gov. DeSantis and Florida’s legislative leaders for their fortitude and determination in getting this critical reform across the finish line today.”
American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear applauded Florida’s actions to enact comprehensive legislation to reform the state’s civil litigation system.
“We mean what we said about lawsuit abuse — enough is enough,” Spear said. “When the plaintiffs’ bar perverts civil litigation into a profit center to line their pockets, the costs are borne by everyone — not just trucking companies, but consumers, too, in the form of higher insurance rates and higher prices for everyday goods.”
ATA noted that Florida is the latest among a growing number of states — including Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Texas and West Virginia — that have enacted other and similar lawsuit abuse reforms.
Thank you, Rep @tommygregoryFL and @nfib_fl for your comments: “The time is right to help small businesses and pass lawsuit abuse reform.” @FloridaTrucking stands alongside you in strong support of ending lawsuit abuse in Florida. https://t.co/Sadwsbi1NK — Florida Trucking Association (@FloridaTrucking) March 16, 2023
Spear thanked DeSantis, Passidomo, Renner, state Reps. Tommy Gregory and Tom Fabricio, state Sen. Travis Hutson and FTA for their efforts to enact “common-sense reforms that restore balance and fairness to the justice system and protect the supply chain from further assault.”
FTA worked since August 2021 to pass this legislation in a multifaceted effort that involved a campaign to inform the public and other stakeholders about the important role of trucking and how it was negatively impacted by lawsuit abuse there.
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It also established a Tort Reform Task Force with a small group of FTA members willing to commit to tackling the problem.
“FTA met with several dozens of attorneys, insurance companies and motor carriers, both in Florida and around the country,” Miller said, “to find successful statutory language in other states; problematic litigation practices; and ultimately, proposed changes to civil justice statutes specific to Florida’s legal system, which would make the biggest impact for members — both for their insurance and with lawsuits.”
FTA also sought metrics and data from its members to underscore the problem with frivolous lawsuits. Then FTA reached out to state lawmakers and began meeting with the governor’s office and legislators.
The language of the bill was the subject of much debate and multiple actions from lawmakers since Fabricio introduced it in the House on Feb. 15. It went to the Civil Justice Subcommittee and the Judiciary Committee, where only five of 10 proposed committee amendments were adopted. The House staff analysis on the tort reform bill’s implications filled 28 pages. The bill passed with strong support March 17 in a House vote (80-31) but encountered resistance in the Senate.
.@FloridaTrucking is immeasurably thankful to our state’s leaders, Speaker @Paul_Renner, Senate President @Kathleen4SWFL, Reps @tommygregoryFL & @TPFabricio, & Sen Travis Hutson, who had the mettle to tackle comprehensive tort reform during the 2023 session. pic.twitter.com/hLZLxT8fvL — Florida Trucking Association (@FloridaTrucking) March 23, 2023
On the Senate floor, legislators made two failed amendments and 10 withdrawn amendments. Eventually, a modified version passed through the Senate with a 23-15 vote March 23 and moved the next day to the House, where it was ordered enrolled (passed) and sent to DeSantis.
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