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Chamber of Commerce panel aims to advance civil litigation reforms in Florida

By Michael Carroll
Nov 3, 2022

Tort reform supporters seem buoyed by the formation of a new Florida Chamber of Commerce panel called the Council of General Counsels as well as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call for a second 2022 special legislative session to deal with the property insurance crisis.

DeSantis called for the special session of the Legislature last month in the wake of Hurricane Ian and rising home insurance premiums around the state. 

The state Chamber of Commerce group was announced during the chamber’s recent annual meeting. The Council of General Counsels, which will be made up of chamber members’ general counsels, litigation directors and risk-management personnel, will advocate for strategies on how to improve Florida’s civil litigation system.

Tom Gaitens, executive director of the Florida chapter of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (FLCALA), said he was optimistic about the chamber forming a committee that will offer solutions to litigation abuses that heap financial burdens on businesses and take on lobbyists for trial attorneys while battling to close loopholes which encourage fraud.

“We welcome all the assistance they (the chamber) can provide,” Gaitens told the Florida Record in an email. “This is an all-hands-on-deck effort. … The challenge becomes, will the Legislature put the solutions ahead of the monetary support from the trial lobby? This new class of (legislative) leadership, encouragingly, seems primed to support the governor and the solutions.”

FLCALA predicted that the state Legislature’s failure to deal forthrightly with property insurance concerns during the regular 2022 session would lead to the current situation, in which some insurers have become insolvent, he said.

“While time will tell whether the reforms passed during the summer special session will ultimately help to improve the conditions and marketplace in Florida, we know it was not enough to curb the horrific trend,” Gaitens said. “It did not meet the economic challenges faced by current carriers, let alone the homeowners themselves.”

DeSantis encouraged former legislative leaders in the state House and Senate to advance meaningful reforms, but trial attorneys ultimately had too much sway over the outcomes, he said.

In its 2021-2022 Judicial Hellholes report, the American Tort Reform Association said important litigation reforms had stalled in the Florida Legislature and urged lawmakers to pass meaningful bills on topics such as inflated medical damages, litigation financing and the use of attorney-fee multipliers in damages awards.

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