TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — A newly passed law alienated Republican trial lawyers and Democrats alike, though it wasn’t enough to stop its 23–15 favorability vote on the Senate floor. Its contents were delivered straight to Governor Ron DeSantis, who officially signed it into law Friday morning.
SB 236/HB 837, sponsored by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast), aims to curb frivolous lawsuits levied against insurance companies, hoping to balance and simplify the civil justice system and its processes.
In explaining the legislation, Sen. Hutson stated: “The reality is that insurance is skyrocketing. One side wants to keep as much money in their pockets as possible, while the other side wants to take far more money than is reasonable,” he said – referring to the bitter insurance battles waged between attorneys and insurance companies. “And while these two industry giants fight back and forth, it is our constituents and our businesses that are being hurt and affected.”
“NOT JUSTICE FOR ALL”
While Sen. Hutson assured the floor that his bill would assuage unnecessary lawsuits and “bad-faith” claims, Democrats and Republican senators with experience as trial lawyers stated that it would do the opposite, hurting American citizens.
“There are 22 million Americans who will now be exposed to higher risk, less safety, and fewer options to hold wrongdoers accountable,” Sen. Erin Grall (R-Fort Pierce) said, explaining clauses of the bill that would allow damages to be set at 140 percent of Medicaid rates, eliminate one-way attorney fees, and reduce filing time for negligent lawsuits from four years to two years. “Our Constitution says ‘liberty and justice for all’ – not the few. This bill is not justice for all.”
Sen. Jason Pizzo (D-Hollywood) echoed her statements: “We know that the people who will mostly be affected by this don’t have lobbyists, they only have us. And that’s a disservice, because you and I are supposed to help the least among us,” he said, speaking directly to Sen. Hutson.
LAW IN OTHER STATES
Sen. Hutson disagreed that his legislation would result in harm to citizens, as he pointed out that this bill’s provisions are laws in up to 22 other states.
“Everything in this bill, we are doing what other states are doing,” he said. “We are not reinventing the wheel, the sky is not falling, it is happening in other states.”
All Democratic senators voted against the bill, joined by Republican Sens. Erin Grall, Jonathan Martin, Jason Brodeur and Jennifer Bradley. This small reach across the aisle was not enough to stop the legislation, as it moved to the governor’s desk and was signed into law.