February 28, 2001
Media contact: Solicitor General Tom Warner
TALLAHASSEE -Solicitor General Tom Warner filed an appeal to the 1st District Court of Appeal today on behalf of the State of Florida to protect the Florida Tort Reform Act passed by the legislature in 1999. On February 9, 2001, Circuit Court Judge Nikki Clark issued an order declaring the comprehensive tort reform act unconstitutional. Judge Clark's opinion claims that the law violated the single-subject requirement for legislative enactments in the Florida Constitution.
The Florida Tort Reform Act adopts comprehensive modifications to Florida's civil court system, including sanctions to discourage frivolous lawsuits. Other provisions of the bill address concerns raised by private property owners and business interests regarding the standards developed by courts related to personal injury lawsuits. The bill also limited the amount of punitive damages that could be awarded in such cases.
According to Solicitor General Tom Warner, "The tort reform act was the result of several years of legislative discussion and debate to address wide ranging problems within the civil litigation system. The judge's order striking the law challenges the authority of the legislature to address comprehensive problems of the State in a single act. The State of Florida is appealing this order, not only to preserve the legislature's work product, but also because we don't want the court to rigidly limit the legislature's ability to protect the interests of Florida's citizens.
Furthermore, the lawsuit is really asking for an advisory opinion from the court, which we believe the court has no jurisdiction to give."