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Florida Senate beats back eleventh-hour effort to change sweeping tort bill

Christine Jordan Sexton

Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature is poised to enact a sweeping crackdown on lawsuit limits after Senate leaders fought back a last-minute change to the high-profile legislation

The tense battle caused Senate President Kathleen Passidomo to correct Sen. Jason Pizzo from the dais after he questioned bill sponsor Sen. Travis Hutson’s legal experience and asked whether or not Gov. Ron DeSantis had directly urged potential GOP opponents to support the legislation.

The bill (SB 236) is likely to head to DeSantis’s desk on Thursday.

The effort to change the bill came from Sen. Erin Grall, a Republican and a trial attorney, who said she was compelled to try to make the changes because she knows the impact they will have.

The omnibus bill makes substantive changes to how lawsuits are filed and litigated in the state, all but eliminating the longstanding statute that allows a policyholder who successfully sues their insurance company on a coverage denial claim to recoup attorney fees.

In addition to the near-total elimination of the one-way attorney fee statutes, the bill changes the information that juries are allowed to consider regarding past and future medical bills. LOPs are sent by plaintiff attorneys to their clients’ health care providers. LOPs guarantee the provider payment for medical treatment from a future lawsuit settlement or verdict award.

Therefore, if the patient is insured, providers don’t bill the insurers, Medicare or Medicaid. While the bills don’t ban LOPs altogether, they allow juries to consider the contracted commercial reimbursement rates for the costs of care as well as Medicare and Medicaid rates when determining future medical expenses.

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