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Statement By:
Barney Bishop III, President and CEO, Associated Industries of Florida

Regarding Senate Approval to Abolish Joint and Several Liability to Restore Fairness to Florida’s Civil Justice System

March 30, 2006

TALLAHASSEE—“Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Coalition for Legal Reform applaud the excellent work of the Florida Senate today for approving historic legislation that will bring sweeping changes to the justice system by eliminating joint and several liability. Today’s favorable vote is the culmination of a forty-year effort to bring balance to our civil justice system.

“This meaningful legislation will keep our courts open to all citizens who have been truly wronged and are justified in seeking restitution. Without joint and several liability, our court system will finally be based on fairness and balance. It will allow Florida to better compete with other southeastern states to expand our current business base and to attract new companies to Florida’s business-friendly climate.

“All Floridians will benefit from the abolishment of joint and several liability lawsuits which created a “deep pocket” mentality that disproportionately attacks those with the most to lose. Under the current system, any business can be forced to pay 100 percent of the damages even after a judge or jury adjudicates them as only 20 percent at fault. For far too many years, joint and several lawsuits have harmed business owners, as well as employees, their families, you, me – all of us—who have been forced to pay higher prices for goods because of the ever-increasing litigation costs businesses must pass along to consumers.

“Associated Industries of Florida and its ten-thousand business members greatly appreciate the efforts of Senate President Tom Lee and many other Senators who stood in firm support of this good bill despite the vocal criticism from the trial bar. We also credit Governor Jeb Bush for his unrelenting leadership in making tort reform a legislative priority and House Speaker Allan Bense for his tenacity and unfaltering conviction to bring a fair and balanced civil justice system to the people of Florida.”