Florida Tort Reform Results in Record Case Filings
On March 24, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill (HB) 837 into law. The bill was created with several goals in mind. The primary aim was to decrease frivolous lawsuits. HB 837 also modifies the bad faith framework. It eliminates one way attorney’s fees and fee multipliers as well as ensures that Florida residents cannot be held liable for damages if the person suing them has the higher percentage of fault.
In a nutshell, with the passing of HB 837, Florida goes from a pure comparative negligence system to a modified comparative negligence system to match the laws of most other states. Before March 24, 2023, a plaintiff could recover compensation from the defendants even if they were mostly at fault. For example, a plaintiff who is 90% at fault for their own injuries could still recover 10% of their damages from the defendant. With the passing of HB 837, a plaintiff is barred from recovery if they are more than 50% at fault for their injuries. The only exception would be actions based on medical negligence. Also, the statute of limitations for negligence claims has been reduced from four years to two years.
The passing of the bill caused a record number of case filings. In March, the number of new case filings shattered the previous record set in May 2021. In March, there were 280,122 cases filed — a 127% increase over the previous record. In March, there were 3.58 million documents filed in the online portal. That was a 28% increase from the previous month.
Because HB 837 applies only to lawsuits filed after March 24, 2023, attorneys worked quickly to file cases so they could be heard under the previous law. Many of these cases would likely have been settled pre-suit, but given the deadline, attorneys filed lawsuits to protect clients.
Clerks of Court across Florida saw a tremendous increase in civil filings. The courts’ primary concern now is having adequate resources to process this high volume of cases. They have dedicated teams of clerks throughout the state to address this avalanche of case filings. The rise in cases started at around March 17 and while it was not expected, they are working hard to manage it.
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Will tort reform help Florida’s judicial system? So far, there have been a record number of case filings. This will cause a lot of strain on the courts for a long time.
Injured by someone else’s negligence? See how a Bradenton personal injury lawyer from Cahall Law Firm can assist you with your case. To schedule a free consultation, fill out the online form or call (941) 281-2019.