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HB 145 the Repeal of Joint & Several Liability Passes the House Justice Council

February 22, 2006

This morning, the House Justice Council passed HB 145 by Representative Don Brown (R-DeFuniak Springs) which repeals the doctrine of joint and several liability. This is the number one priority for the 2006 Legislative Session for AIF and the entire business community.

In his opening remarks, Representative Brown stated that this is “a simple and straightforward bill” which simply provides a sense of fairness to the legal system for torts. He noted that the committee staff had accurately remarked in the bill’s staff analysis that “This would complete a trend begun by the Legislature in 1986 and continued in further reforms in 1999.” Representative Brown commented that it is now time for the “last remaining vestiges of the unfair doctrine of joint and several to be repealed.”

Rep. Brown’s eloquently provided the Council members with a history of the comparative negligence system and provided them with several references where the courts have commented that the doctrine of joint and several liability is inherently unfair and that it is the legislature’s responsibility to set the policy on this issue.

No amendments were filed to this bill. Due to time constraints there was not an enormous amount of public testimony on this issue. However, over 30 businesses and business organizations submitted cards to Chairman Bruce Kyle (R-Ft. Myers) indicating their strong support of this bill. In deference to the Chairman, all business lobbyists waved their time in support of the bill. Attorney George Meros did testify to address some of the concerns expressed by the Democratic members of the committee. During debate, Vice Chairman Carl Domino (R-Palm Beach Gardens) voiced his approval of this legislation and pointed out that any requirement of paying more than one’s fair share of responsibility was the best policy for the state to embrace. Representatives John Quinones (R-Kissimmee) and Mark Mahon (R-Jacksonville) both expressed some concerns over the issue of Fabre and how unnamed parties would be affected by the passage of this legislation. Rep. Brown addressed their concerns by saying previous precedent makes it clear that it is the obligation of the defendant to lay out the elements of the case and it is the obligation of the defense to make those unnamed parties known. Representative Greg Evers (R-Milton) commended the sponsor for bringing this “good business bill” forward, but inquired as to whether the repeal of Joint & Several liability would do anything to lower insurance rates. Representative Brown responded by saying that this legislation was about correcting the fundamental unfairness of the legal system in Florida and not about insurance rates.

The House Justice Council approved this bill by an 8-2 vote. The Representatives voting in favor of the bill were Chairman Kyle, Vice Chairman Domino, Representative Greg Evers (R-Milton), Representative Dick Kravitz (R-Orange Park), Representative Marcello Llorente (R-Miami), Representative Mark Mahon (R-Jacksonville), Representative John Quinones (R-Kissimmee) and Representative David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs). The two dissenting votes were from Representative Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) and Representative Irv Slosberg (D-Boca Raton).

AIF commends Chairman Kyle for his leadership in hearing and helping to pass this bill out of the Council today and salutes Representative Brown for continuing to lead the charge on this important legislation. We encourage you to contact all the Council members who voted for the bill to thank them for their support of HB 145. Encourage them to continue supporting this legislation without additional amendments when it comes to the full House for a vote. The bill has no additional committees of reference and will next be heard on the floor of the House, probably within the first two weeks of session.