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Major tort-reform legislation that proponents say will curb legal system abuse and frivolous lawsuits in Florida was signed into law Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The move was welcomed by insurers and other industry groups.
H.B. 837, which was approved by the Florida Senate on Thursday by a vote of 23-15 after passing the House last week, modifies the standards for bad faith actions to incentivize good faith between both parties and provide consumer protections, and eliminates one-way attorney fees, which have allowed policyholders to collect their legal costs from insurers if they win a dispute over claims.
It also eliminates fee multipliers for all lines of insurance, which have allowed plaintiffs’ attorneys to use a multiplier on top of a so-called “Lodestar” fee thereby securing higher fees when they prevail in litigation.
Other measures under H.B. 837 limit recovery if a plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, expand immunity from liability for property owners defending against criminal acts on their property, provide uniform standards for juries in calculating medical damages and reduce the statute of limitations for general negligence cases from four to two years.
Passage of the law was welcomed by various industry groups, including the Washington-based American Property Casualty Insurance Association.
The reforms will help restore fairness to Florida’s legal system, reduce the excessive number of frivolous lawsuits being filed and help increase the availability of insurance over time, Logan McFaddin, vice president of state government relations at APCIA, said in a statement.
Florida’s legal system abuse has added to the challenges of providing insurance coverage in the state, Neil Aldredge, president and CEO of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, said in a statement.
“Greater fairness and balance will be good for Florida, bringing much-needed stability,” Mr. Aldredge said.
In a statement, the Washington-based American Tort Reform Association said the package of reforms has the potential to rebalance the state’s legal system for years to come and would promote transparency in damages.
“Transparency in damages is critical to ensuring that the legal system is fair and just,” ATRA President Tiger Joyce said in the statement.
Passage of the legislation, which was introduced earlier this year, follows efforts late last year to stabilize property insurance markets in the state.