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Proposed civil litigation reforms now extend to nursing homes

Senior Editor Top Stories
Sen. Colleen Burton

Sen. Colleen Burton

The Legislature’s civil litigation reforms have expanded to nursing homes less than a week before the March 7 launch of the regular, 60-day session.

Sen. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, filed SB 1304 on February 28. A companion, HB 1029 by Rep. Randy Maggard, R-Zephyrhills, was filed February 22.

The proposals would prohibit adult children of senior living facility residents from collecting non-economic damages and prohibit expert witnesses from testifying on a contingency fee basis.

Florida Justice Reform Institute President William Large said the measures “update code regarding nursing homes and adult living facilities to create parity” with existing medical malpractice protections, and inject “specificity” and “strict requirements” into the “evidence and expert witness process.”

“Current long-term care liability law incentivizes plaintiffs to file lawsuits against any and every possible defendant, especially those with deep pockets, and encourages the dubious use of experts outside of their scope of practice,” Large said in a statement.

The measures are in addition to HB 837, a sweeping civil litigation reform proposal by House Judiciary Chair Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch. The House Civil Justice Subcommittee approved the measure 12-6 on February 24.

The larger reform package would repeal a one-way attorney fee provision in Florida law that requires insurance companies to pay a policy holder’s legal fees and costs when a court determines they unfairly denied or underpaid a claim.

Jacksonville attorney Curry Pajcic, president of the Florida Justice Association, called HB 837, “an insurance company giveaway.”

Another HB 837 provision would switch Florida from a “pure” to a “modified” comparative negligence standard and prohibit plaintiffs from collecting damages when they are found to be 50% or more at fault.

Critics of HB 837, and other “tort reform” measures, argue they would leave accident victims and the catastrophically injured unable to fight an insurance company’s arbitrary decisions.

Another measure filed for the 2023 session, the “Roller Skating Rink Safety Act,” would make rink operators and owners immune from civil liability if they post signs, follow state and local regulations, and take “reasonable” safety precautions. Freshman Rep. Susan Plasencia, R-Winter Springs, filed HB 1129 on February 24.

Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, and Rep. Philip “Griff” Griffitts, R-Panama City, have filed SB 1002 and HB 541, respectively. The measures would prohibit motorists from assigning their insurance benefits to auto glass repair companies.

Unlike the House companion, Stewart’s bill would ban auto-glass companies from offering a “rebate, gift card, cash, coupon, or any other thing of value,” in exchange for making an insurance claim for motor vehicle glass or repair.

“These incentives sound great, but the reality is that some of these services are using you to sue your insurance for more money than the replacement actually costs,” Stewart said.

 

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