For the second year in a row, Florida avoided the official “Judicial Hellhole” title, according to an annual report conducted by the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF).
The national report is good news for Florida, which continues to make progress in the area of tort reform. The non-partisan group removed the Sunshine State off of the list last year but says they will keep Florida on its “Watch List,” citing several areas that still need to be addressed by Florida lawmakers.
“Florida is one of the states hit hardest by COVID-19, and the repercussions of the virus are amplified by the legislature’s inaction in protecting small businesses and curbing lawsuit abuse,” American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) President Tiger Joyce said. “Especially in south Florida, out-of-control legal advertising and trial attorney abuse of ‘letters of protection,’ bad faith laws, and assignment of benefits threaten to set back any progress that has been made in cleaning up Florida’s courts.”
ATRA noted in their report that the state is still plagued by bad faith laws, “no-fault” personal injury protections, crippling lawsuit abuse, and skyrocketing attorneys’ fees.
“COVID-19 highlighted which states are committed to supporting their small businesses and the thousands of jobs they contribute to local economies,” Joyce said. “While Florida made progress this year in cleaning up its courtrooms, its problems could grow dramatically in 2021 if lawmakers again fail to prioritize a responsible pandemic recovery. This begins with the small business community and continues with additional legal reforms to push back against an aggressive trial bar and rein in lawsuit abuse.
The watchdog group did, however, credit Governor Ron DeSantis for improving the state’s legal environment, noting that Florida moved off the list last year and stayed off of it this year, “as a direct result of Governor Ron DeSantis’s thoughtful and decisive leadership” with respect to his Florida Supreme Court appointments.
“Florida was removed from the Judicial Hellholes ranks and moved to the Watch List last year, thanks in large part to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s, R, leadership on improving the state’s civil justice system. Most notably, his appointments to the state Supreme Court have reshaped the state’s judicial system and set it on a path toward becoming more balanced,” ATRA said in a press release.
The Florida Justice Reform Institute agreed with ATRA’s assessment, touting the Governor for making tort reform a top priority since taking office.
“Governor DeSantis is single-handedly pulling Florida out of its judicial hellhole,” said William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute.
“Under Governor DeSantis, Florida’s legal environment is now making national headlines for the right reasons,” Large continued. “Governor DeSantis was spot on when he said that Florida’s legal system should compensate real injuries and resolve real disputes, and not be used as a game.
“ATRA was right to commend Governor DeSantis, and they’re right to call on the Legislature to follow the Governor’s courageous lead and fix the laws before the games get to the Supreme Court in the first place.”
To view the full report, click here.
This year’s #JudicialHellholes report is live! ⚖️
See who tops the ranks with the worst civil justice systems & how they can improve. https://t.co/o7tkE5hBYT
— American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) ⚖️ (@AmTortReform) December 8, 2020