March 15, 2005
TALLAHASSEE — In unveiling a major tort reform package today, Governor Jeb Bush has sent a clear message to Florida’s elected leaders and all citizens of his commitment to fight for a more fair and balanced legal system in our state. The Governor’s proposal includes significant recommendations that echo the concerns of the business community.
According to Coalition Coordinator and AIF President Barney T. Bishop III, “Lawsuit abuse is not a problem that affects just businesses in Florida. The spiraling litigation costs impact the businesses being sued, as well as every Floridian who holds a job and everyone who makes a purchase. It is time to aggressively reform our legal system into one that protects ordinary citizens without forcing the business community to pick up the tab for unreasonable and unfair decisions."
The Governor’s proposal reforms the legal system in a way that allows the business community to better meet its potential of creating a more vital economic climate, while ensuring citizens retain their right to the court process. Meaningful reforms to the civil litigation process include:
• Abolishing Joint and Several Liability
• Reforming Class Action Litigation
• Limiting Lawyer Fees on all Tort Cases
• Abolishing Punitive Damages
• Reforming of Product and Premises Liability for Retailers
• Reversing of the Recent Judicial Expansion of Duty
• Insurance Bad Faith Reform
• Products Liability Reform
• Implementation of the Jury Patriotism Act
According to Coalition member and owner of Tallahassee’s Silver Slipper restaurant Bill Kalfas, “The business community in Florida joins the Governor in his push for common sense lawsuit reform. Without it, our economy will continue to suffer with a legal environment that makes it more difficult to attract new business to the state, limits job creation, employee benefits and wages for working Floridians, and ultimately passes along higher prices to consumers.” Kalfas also stated, “If neighboring states that we compete with, including Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina and Mississippi, can pass major legal reform then Florida should take action as well.”
The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform ranks states according to fairness of their legal systems, based on a Harris Interactive survey. In 2004, Florida ranked 38th. This year we dropped further, with a current ranking of 42. Twenty-nine states have now taken action to curb unfair lawsuits.
The Florida Coalition for Legal Reform, affiliated with AIF, is comprised of a group of 43 companies and associations which employ millions of Florida residents. Its goal is to promote a healthier business climate in Florida by achieving a fair and balanced legal system. Associated Industries of Florida is a statewide employers association representing over 10,000 businesses that range from large multinational corporations to small family-owned enterprises.