While more work remains to get the state off the list and out of the report altogether, major strides were made in 2019 thanks to the leadership of Republicans.
The election of Gov. Ron DeSantis heralded a sea change in Florida’s legal landscape, beginning with the appointment of several new Florida Supreme Court justices -- Justices Barbara Lagoa, Robert Luck, and Carlos Muñiz. This new court is deferential to legislative efforts to stop lawsuit abuse and poised to correct the course set by the prior activist court.
"The importance of Governor DeSantis's appointments to the Florida Supreme Court are hard to overstate. The compulsory retirements that opened up the seats were a legacy from a Governor gone now for over twenty-one years. Legislators should feel free to be more bold in their public policy, knowing, in the least, they do not have an obstructionist court," NFIB in Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said.
On top of a restructured court, conservative legislators played a huge part in protecting consumers and small businesses from excessive lawsuit abuse that harms everyone by clogging the court system.
Tort Reform was a major task that DeSantis wanted the Florida legislature to tackle in 2019. Excessive tort costs burden Florida residents who lose their ability to create a livelihood due to the estimated loss of more than 125,000 jobs and nearly $12 billion lost in personal income.
Rep. Bob Rommel and other conservative leaders accepted the governor's mission, leading the charge to reform a system that allowed meritless and frivolous cases to drive up insurance costs and drive away jobs.
“Florida heard the title ‘Judicial Hellhole’ for many years and finally decided to take action,” American Tort Reform Foundation President Tiger Joyce said. “We are pleased to see the governor and members of the legislature like House Judiciary Chairman Bob Rommel work together to push forward meaningful reforms.”
Other factors that contributed to Florida being dropped from a Judicial Hellhole to the Watch List include:
- A new Supreme Court with three new justices. The court adopted the U.S. Supreme Court’s Daubertstandard for expert evidence, which the legislature enacted in 2013. The court had previously rejected this duly enacted statute as an encroachment on the court’s authority. Two of the court’s justices were then appointed to federal courts by President Trump and will be replaced by Gov. DeSantis in 2020.
- A revitalized Florida legislature enacting reforms to address the state’s liability climate, including removing incentives to file Assignment of Benefits litigation, narrowing the dangerous instrumentality doctrine and discouraging unnecessary bad faith actions.
“We are grateful that government officials in Florida heard the warning signal and took action, but there is still work to be done, like fixing the no-fault personal injury protection system and addressing inflated awards for medical expenses,” Joyce said.
The current ranking of the country’s Judicial Hellholes is:
- Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas
- New York City
- Illinois’s Cook, Madison and St. Clair Counties
- Minnesota Supreme Court and the Twin Cities
- New Jersey Legislature
The Judicial Hellholes report is released each December by the American Tort Reform Foundation to shine a light on abuses in the civil justice system and in state legislative bodies.
View the full report, click HERE.