August 11, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Alberto Martinez
Thursday August 11, 2005
MIAMI, FL Today, Tom Gallagher became the first and only candidate for Governor to announce a clear position on tort reform by calling on the Florida Legislature to completely abolish joint and several liability.
If we are serious about curbing lawsuit abuse here in Florida, complete repeal of joint and several liability cannot be delayed any longer, said CFO Gallagher in an oped submitted to Florida newspapers.
According to the Florida Justice Reform Institute, Florida's out of control legal system places an unfair burden on Florida's working families by imposing a litigation tax estimated at $845 per person and $3,400 for a family of four. Leading tort reform groups such as the Florida Justice Institute, the American Tort Reform Association, and the Institute for Legal Reform agree that addressing joint and several is the first step in correcting Florida's legal environment.
CFO Gallagher has long been a proponent of principled and comprehensive tort reform, and reform of our judiciary is an important theme of his campaign. In fact, CFO Gallagher is the only candidate for Governor to have joined Governor Jeb Bush in support of civil justice reform.
Below is CFO Gallagher's oped in support of joint and several reform submitted to major newspapers throughout the state.
GALLAGHER CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE REPEAL OF JOINT AND SEVERAL
August 11, 2005
Abolish joint and several now
By Tom Gallagher
Florida Chief Financial Officer and Republican Candidate for Governor
One rule I've learned from my service as a statewide cabinet officer is that any policy proposal that's vigorously opposed by organized plaintiffs lawyers is likely to be great for the state of Florida. What has the plaintiffs attorneys howling these days is any proposal to completely repeal joint and several liability. Its an issue that I first advocated twenty years ago in the Florida Legislature, and this year I joined Governor Jeb Bush at a rally promoting the issue on the steps of the Old Capitol. If we are serious about curbing lawsuit abuse here in Florida, complete repeal of joint and several liability cannot be delayed any longer.
Joint and several liability is also known as the deep pockets rule. It is the legal doctrine that says that a defendant in a lawsuit can be liable for more than its share of the plaintiffs damages. The rule encourages lawsuits against parties based on their ability to pay, rather than on their degree of fault. Its hard to think of a legal rule more unfair and apt for abuse.
Beyond its unfairness, joint and several liability does serious harm to Florida's business climate and economy. A recent survey sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Florida's legal system 42nd in the nation, down from 38th the year before. Joint and several liability played a large role in our states poor performance in the survey. And its a major reason why every family in this state pays a hidden lawsuit tax in the form of higher prices and inflated insurance premiums.
In an increasingly competitive economy, it is critical that Florida not fall behind. Everyone knows that the fairness and efficiency of a states legal system are critical factors in attracting new businesses and creating more jobs. Even Mississippi once thought of as one of the worst judicial environments in the nation has gotten rid of joint and several liability. Other states are acting on this reform too. There's no reason why Florida shouldn't be a leader in the fight against lawsuit abuse, as we are on so many other critical issues. If we don't act, we are placing ourselves at a big disadvantage. I have heard from many CEOs who have said that Florida's legal system has kept businesses from re-locating or expanding in our state. Each passing day that we don't act, we are placing ourselves at a greater disadvantage when it comes to attracting new, high wage jobs.
We have one of the best economies in the nation, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We need to continue to look for ways to encourage entrepreneurship and economic expansion in our state. After all, a healthy economy gives us the means to fund additional improvements in our public safety, education, and healthcare systems. I strongly recommend that the Florida Legislature abolish joint and several liability for good in the upcoming legislative session, and I will continue to speak out until this happens. We must act on this issue now to preserve and expand Florida's economic opportunities for future generations.