Gov. Ron DeSantis signs tort reform legislation into law in his office on March 24, 2023. Credit: governor’s office
Gov. Ron DeSantis skipped the fanfare when signing one of his priority bills into law on Friday. He marked the enactment of new restrictions on civil lawsuits against insurance companies with a quiet announcement on his Twitter thread.
“Florida has long been known as a ‘judicial hellhole’ due to the legal system’s incentivizing of excessive and frivolous lawsuits. Today, I signed a series of reforms that will protect Floridians and our economy from predatory lawsuits,” the tweet reads.
Aides also issued a press release. Judging by an accompanying photograph, he signed the bill in his office, flanked by legislative leaders and bill sponsors.
DeSantis staged a showy news conference on Valentine’s Day to announce his tort-reform push.
Basically, the bill makes it harder for policyholders to prevail in court against insurance carriers that deny, underpay, or slow-walk claims. It also repeals the “one-way” attorney fee law the Legislature passed in 1893, which allows policyholders to force carriers to pay any attorney fees they rack up if forced to sue to enforce claims. The idea was to counterbalance insurers’ financial and legal clout.
The Florida Senate voted final passage on the legislation on Thursday, with a few Republican defectors amid overwhelming GOP support for the bill. You can read the details of that debate and background on the bill here.
Democrats and some of those Republican dissenters complained that the bill would harm little-guy Floridians.
“The people who’ve been paying the premiums are told that now we won’t pay your attorney fees, but the insurance companies have a whole staff of lawyers that they’re going to pay. I’ve said before that this sets up a David versus Goliath situation where the consumer is left to fend for himself and herself,” said Democrat Geraldine Thompson of Orange County.
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