Major tort reform legislation that advocates 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 insurance companies and other industry groups.
HB 837, which was approved by the Florida Senate on Thursday by a 23-15 vote after passing the House last week, changes the standards for bad faith actions to encourage good faith between both parties and provide consumer protection, and eliminates one-way attorney fees, which have enabling policyholders to recover their legal costs from insurers if they win a claim dispute.
It also eliminates fee multipliers for all lines of insurance, which have allowed plaintiffs̵7; attorneys to use a multiplier in addition to a so-called “Lodestar” fee, thereby securing higher fees when they win lawsuits.
Other measures under HB 837 limit recovery if a plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, expand immunity from liability for property owners who defend themselves against criminal acts on their property, provide uniform standards for juries in calculating medical damages, and reduce the statute for limitations for cases of general negligence from four to two years.
The 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 filed and help increase access to insurance over time, Logan McFaddin, vice president of state government relations at APCIA, said in a statement.
The abuse of Florida’s legal system has increased 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,” Aldredge said.
In a statement, the Washington-based American Tort Reform Association said the reform package has the potential to rebalance the state’s legal system for years to come and would promote transparency in torts.
“Transparency in torts is critical to ensuring that the legal system is fair and just,” ATRA President Tiger Joyce said in the statement.
The passage of the legislation, introduced earlier this year, follows efforts late last year to stabilize property insurance markets in the state.