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May 4th, 2011

Florida Legislature Passes Important Tort Reform

By an overwhelming vote of 80 to 35, the Florida House today passed an important tort reform bill, already passed by the Senate, that will empower jurors to hear all of the relevant facts in car accident cases where the negligence of the driver is alleged. 

Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the bill into law soon.  But until he does, as the Judicial Hellholes 2009/2010 report noted (see p. 4, “Florida: Where Drunk Drivers Get Paid”), Florida law “actively conceals from the jury evidence regarding ‘how’ and ‘why’ the [car] accident happened . . . . ”  Which is to say that a stoned or drunk driver not wearing a seatbelt, or his estate, could brazenly pursue a so-called “crashworthiness” product liability lawsuit against a car manufacturer, knowing the jury would never hear evidence about the driver’s obvious fault in causing the crash.

The new law, says William Large, president of the nonprofit Florida Justice Reform Institute, “is a victory for the sanctity of the jury system.  Florida jurors will now be able to hear all of the evidence in a case before apportioning liability.”    

Gov. Scott and many Florida lawmakers are reportedly determined to continue pressing additonal elements of a broader tort reform agenda, but today’s final passage of an important bill will certainly help limit some of the inequities that have made South Florida, in particular, a perennial Judicial Hellhole.

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