The 2015 legislative session presented Florida lawmakers with an important opportunity to pass a number of significant legal reforms that the state desperately needs. But once again, session comes to an end with little or nothing to show by way of meaningful reform. States across the country have enacted reforms to fix laws that encouraged abusive lawsuits and to ensure that the legal system is fair for all parties. Even West Virginia, a state with one of the worst legal climates in the nation, got with the program and passed reform. But not Florida.
This is embarrassing and worse, a missed opportunity to show that Florida is committed to a fair legal system.
Year after year, Florida lawmakers draft badly-needed legal reform bills, and, year after year, reforms languish in committees that are stacked decks for trial lawyers.
Among the bills introduced this year were bills that would have stopped personal injury lawyers from exploiting gaps in current laws to fuel more and bigger lawsuits. Two reform bills, Truth in Damages (SB 1240) and the Fair Settlement Act (SB 1088) respectively would have reduced the opportunity for jacked up lawsuits by requiring that lawsuit damages should be based on real costs and by putting clear and transparent rules in place that actually allow for a chance at a fair settlement before escalating a lawsuit. These aren’t revolutionary concepts – in fact it’s the way our justice system should work.
These are the type of smart, commonsense improvements to Florida’s legal system that would help clamp down on abusive lawsuits and improve Florida’s reputation as a haven for lawsuits.
This should not be a tough choice. A fair legal system benefits everyone. Protecting the “lawsuit-palooza” status quo, only benefits the personal injury lawyers. When the legislature takes a pass on reform, it’s giving lawsuit abuse a free pass and sending a message that a fair legal environment just isn’t that important in the scheme of things. As a result, every Floridian pays the price.