Florida Legislature lands on ‘Judicial Hellholes’ watch list

by | Dec 7, 2021

While Florida recently shed its ‘Judicial Hellhole’ status, the state’s legislature remains on the “Watch List” of the annual report published by the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF).

Despite all the work done by the Florida Supreme Court and Governor Ron DeSantis to mitigate lawsuit abuse, ATRF said in their Tuesday report that much-needed reforms continue to stall in the Florida Legislature. Notably, ATRF pointed to lawmakers failing for multiple years to address issues such as phantom damages, bad faith claims, and more.

“Without these reforms, the trial bar is still able to capitalize and pursue frivolous lawsuits, and legislators know it,” American Tort Reform Association President Tiger Joyce said. “Plaintiffs’ lawyers in Florida have long abused what are known as ‘letters of protection’ to inflate medical expenses for the purpose of lawsuits. The use of inflated billed amounts only increases the overall cost of the judicial system, spreading the financial burden on the backs of every American through higher costs on goods and services.”

In the report, ATRF also highlighted methods used by bad actors to dup consumers. ATRF says instead of using health insurance coverage, some trial lawyers encourage their clients to enter into agreements with third-party medical financing companies to pay for medical care related to injuries or offer a “letter of protection” to the medical provider. Letters of protection typically do not include a medical financing company. Rather, the doctor treats the patient based on the letter of protection provided by the patient’s lawyer, stating that the bill will be paid out of the settlement or verdict awards. 

“This type of abuse benefits only the lawyers and the medical clinics that may be in cohorts with them,” Joyce continued. “Legislation can ensure that jurors receive accurate information on the actual value of medical expenses and prohibit abuse of letters of protection.”

Joyce also called attention to the legislature failing to pass legislation (SB 924), which would have established a “reckless disregard” standard for bad faith claims against insurers.

“Bad faith lawsuits targeting insurers continue to be fertile ground for trial lawyers looking to game the system,” added Joyce. “However, the Florida legislature needs to address the larger issues at play.”

A Florida appellate court also received a “Dishonorable Mention” in the report for subjecting a pharmacy to punitive damages for an employee who questioned opioid prescriptions.

The report was not all bad, however, as ATRF named the Florida Supreme Court as a Point of Light, placing Florida’s branches of government on different ends of the ‘Judicial Hellholes’ spectrum.

To read the full report, click here.

1 Comment

  1. Deborah Coffey

    I sincerely hope the legislature NEVER passes the bill. Let’s remember that the ATRF works for Fortune 500 companies, all of whom want to be immune from lawsuits. No sympathy here for the ATRF.

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