Floridians for Lawsuit Reform
March 5, 2020
Tallahassee, FL – The Florida House of Representatives voted Wednesday overwhelmingly in favor of House Bill 7071, sponsored by Rep. Mike Beltran, to limit exorbitant attorney fees on property insurance lawsuits.
“I’m confident that this bill will restore the balance to this area of law,” said Rep. Beltran on the House floor. “And it will allow folks to continue to litigate valid claims and that attorney fees will be more reasonable.”
The legislation, which passed 72 to 46 on the House floor, has the backing of Floridians. Last month, more than 1,000 petitions were hand-delivered to the Legislature calling on them to act on HB 7071 and its companion bill SB 914, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes.
The legislation would alleviate homeowners’ property insurance rates by putting an end to contingency risk multiplier fees on property insurance claims, except in rare and exceptional circumstances.
Contingency risk multiplier fees enable trial attorneys to pocket up to 30 times more than the value of the property insurance claim they represent. Trial attorneys are using homeowners’ claims to collect six-figure paydays, and insurance policyholders are footing the bill through higher premiums.
Next, HB 7071 will be sent in Messages to the Florida Senate, and the Florida Senate must decide if it will hear the companion bill in its last remaining committee reference, the Senate Rules Committee. SB 914 was last considered favorably by Senate Judiciary Committee on February 4. The Senate bill has remained stagnant for a month.
Tort reform has long been a priority of Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature. At an event in the fall of 2019, where it was revealed Florida remains one of the worst legal climates in the nation, Gov. DeSantis said:
“That, to me, is more of a lawyer-driven culture than it is based on people who actually suffer harm. If we can make it so that it’s based on the clients rather than the attorney, I think that would be better.”
HB 7071 brings Florida law in line with the U.S. Supreme Court standard and the rest of the country. Without meaningful reform, millions of Floridians on low or fixed incomes will continue to pay higher prices on homeowners’ insurance while trial attorneys line their pockets with Floridians’ hard-earned income.
Trial attorneys in Florida are capitalizing on this opportunity to multiply their fees, and they are taking home big bucks. In 2017, there were 25,000 cases tied to property insurance claims. In 2018, that number doubled to 50,000, and the volume continues to grow.
In 2020, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has received a handful of requests from insurance carriers for rate increases so they can manage the exorbitant fees and rising costs of litigation. Rate increase requests range from 20 to 40%, and soon, if meaningful reform is not enacted, Florida homeowners will be paying the price.