Florida escapes ‘Judicial Hellhole’ designation as tort reform measures take effect

by | Dec 5, 2023



  • The American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF) has removed Florida from its ‘Judicial Hellhole’ list, a move credited to recent legal reforms in the state. 
  • Noted changes include amendments to the comparative negligence system, which now limits damage recovery for plaintiffs more than 50 percent responsible for their injuries.
  • The organization also offered praise for the passage of Senate Bill 360, which reduced the timeframe for filing construction defect claims from ten to seven years, aligning Florida with most other states and offering more predictability in the construction sector.
  • The report also noted several state Supreme Court appointments by DeSantis as instrumental in the shift away from the ‘Judicial Hellhole’ designation.

Following a series of legal reforms, the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF) has removed Florida from its ‘Judicial Hellhole‘ list, a long-held designation reflecting the state’s history of excessive litigation and frivolous lawsuits.

The change is largely attributed to the passage of House Bill 837, which focused on transparency in damage claims in court trials. Sponsored by Reps. Tommy Gregory and Tom Fabricio, as well as Sen. Travis Hutson, the bill addresses the discrepancy between claimed and actual medical expenses in court cases.

The measure also included changes to the comparative negligence system, limiting recovery of damages for plaintiffs more than 50 percent at fault for their injuries, ostensibly overhauling ‘bad faith’ insurance litigation, and adjusting attorney fee provisions.

“At long last, Florida’s leadership, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, House Speaker Paul Renner, and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, prioritized civil justice reform, recognizing the negative impact lawsuit abuse is having on Florida residents and the state’s economy,” the ATRF report reads. “The 2023 legislative session brought a great sea change for the state’s civil justice system. Florida lawmakers passed legal reform bills that have the potential to rebalance the state’s legal system for many years to come.”

Another recognized piece of legislation is Senate Bill 360, which shortened the period for filing construction defect claims from ten to seven years, aligning Florida with the majority of other states and serving as part of the state’s effort to provide clearer guidelines and predictability in the construction industry.

The state also enacted legislation aimed at regulating what was referred to as deceptive practices in legal services ads. Lawyers spent an estimated $271.8 million on TV, outdoor, radio, digital, and print ads for local legal services or soliciting legal claims in Florida and accounted for nearly 12 percent of all legal services advertising spending across the United States last year.

“We encourage others that find themselves on the Judicial Hellholes® list year after year to follow Florida’s lead,” Tiger Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association said. “It’s possible to turn the tide and take the necessary steps to protect your citizens from frivolous lawsuits and improve your legal climates.”

The report also noted several state Supreme Court appointments by DeSantis as instrumental in the shift away from the ‘Judicial Hellhole’ designation.

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