Governor Ron DeSantis today signed House Bill (HB) 837, Civil Remedies, to decrease frivolous lawsuits and prevent predatory practices of trial attorneys that prey on hardworking Floridians. This bill modifies the bad faith framework, eliminates one way attorney’s fees and fee multipliers and ensures that Floridians can’t be held liable for damages if the person suing is more at fault. Additionally, this bill expands immunity for property owners defending against a criminal who is injured on their property while providing uniform standards for juries in calculating medical damages and reducing the statute of limitations for general negligence cases from four years to two years. The Governor proposed this legislation in February before the start of the 2023 Legislative Session.
“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,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I am proud to sign this legislation to protect Floridians, safeguard our economy and attract more investment in our state.”
“When a horrible accident or incident occurs and people suffer a loss, they should be compensated quickly and fairly,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. “The vast majority of attorneys work very hard to provide sound legal representation for Floridians in these difficult circumstances. 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 Governor 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.”
“Thank you Governor DeSantis for signing transformational legislation to end lawsuit abuse,” said House Speaker Paul Renner. “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.”
“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,” said Senator Travis Hutson. “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. This bill protects the rights of Floridians who suffer a loss, while providing a solutions to cut down on frivolous lawsuits and prevent predatory practices that prey on hardworking Floridians.”
“The reforms Governor 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,” said Representative Tommy Gregory.
“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,” said Representative Tom Fabricio. “Thank you Governor DeSantis for your support on this good bill.”
This bill modifies the bad faith framework to clarify that negligence alone does not demonstrate bad faith and to require a claimant to act in good faith regarding furnishing information and attempting to settle the insurance claim. Additionally, the bill allows and insurer to limit their bad faith liability when there are multiple claimants in a single action by paying the total policy amount before negotiations for a settlement begin.
Additionally, this legislation makes changes to Florida’s comparative negligence system so that a plaintiff who is more at fault for his or her own injuries than the defendant may not generally recover damages from the defendant. Furthermore, the bill expands immunity for property owners who are defending themselves from a lawsuit against a criminal actor who was injured on the property and requires a judge or jury to consider the fault of all persons who contributed to an injury.
The bill also adopts the federal standard of eliminating attorney’s fee multipliers and provides that one way attorney fee provision can only be applied in limited situations. By doing so, the bill disincentivizes frivolous lawsuits and prolonged litigation to increase the profit margins of activist attorneys abusing the system.
This new legislation also provides uniform standards to assist juries in calculating the accurate value of medical damages in wrongful death or personal injury actions. The bill also reduces the statute of limitations for general negligence cases from 4 years to 2 years.