Florida avoids “judicial hellhole” label, but…

by | Feb 2, 2022

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) released its 2022 lawsuit economic impact report on Wednesday, detailing the state’s legal climate, and the results were mixed.

Despite the Sunshine State making strides in the area of lawsuit reform, with the state avoiding the dreaded “Judicial Hellhole” title for the third year in the row, Tom Gaitens, executive director of the Florida chapter of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (FLCALA), said that the state has a lot of work to do to get off the watch list. In particular, Gaitens highlighted that the study commissioned by CALA found that frivolous lawsuits cost Floridians over 173,000 jobs and hit the state revenue for almost $1 billion, resulting in an $11.7 billion impact in direct costs to the economy.

The report was unveiled at a press conference at the Florida Capitol alongside industry leaders, including the Florida National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as Senator Doug Broxson and State Representatives Bob Rommel, Toby Overdorf, Joe Harding, and Stan McClain.

During the event, CALA outlined steps lawmakers could take during the 2022 Legislative Session, which included renewing COVID-19 liability protections for frontline health care workers and safeguarding Florida homeowners from bad actors. Gaitens noted that the latter is an ongoing crisis that is not being addressed by the Florida Legislature.

“Florida CALA and our grassroots supporters all over the state are excited that the legislature we’ll renew the covid liability protections for frontline workers in the health care industry. We only wish that the rest of the legislature would be standing with us at the podium fighting for property insurance reform. We still have a crisis in Florida regarding Florida’s personal lines of coverage,” Gaitens said. “Since 2013, 15 billion has been paid out in flames in Florida on homeowners policies. 71% of which went to attorney’s fees, 21% paid the insurers’ defense costs and just 8% went to cover the losses of property owners. Citizen is growing so rapidly that we will soon be past 1 million this is unsustainable at an unacceptable risk for all Floridians. But as the economic impact report demonstrates the enormous burden of the tort tax is just one more cost upon the backs of every Floridian. We need all of our legislators rowing in the same direction, away from that judicial hellhole.”

Rommel expanded on Gaitens’ outlook, stressing the importance of reducing Florida’s tort tax in 2022.

“Over the past few years, Florida has made strides in deterring lawsuit abuse. We’ve seen some improvements in our property and casualty market but more needs to be done. We are fortunate not to have any income tax in Florida but some reports estimate that every Floridian pays $1,400 additional every year for good services and insurance products because of lawsuit abuse. We will continue to try to rebalance the scales of justice to reduce the tort tax and ensure every Floridian has access to the courts,” Rommel told The Capitolist.

Julio Fuentes, President of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber, also added to the conversation, noting how predatory lawsuits have plagued entrepreneurs in Spanish communities.

“Florida’s Hispanic small businesses are often small and family-owned. Just one lawsuit can be devastating. Size does matter, and when large law firms engage in settlement shopping with small proprietorships, it can often cause someone to close their entirely,” Fuentes added.

To view the full report, click here.


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