By Insurance Journal Staff Reports 

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A Florida tort-reform bill that picks up where previous insurance-market rescue bills left off has passed its first milestone and now moves to the full House Judiciary Committee. But the speaker of the House said the measure is far from final.

“There’s going to be more give and take and more compromise to be had before this bill gets to the end,” Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said at a news conference. “We’re trying to hit the middle of the fairway.”

House Bill 837 was approved by a House Judiciary subcommittee last week by a vote of 12-6, strictly on party lines. It now goes to the full committee, where the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, is chairman. A committee hearing has not been scheduled. The full session of the Florida Legislature begins March 7.

Despite the major changes enacted by the Legislature’s special session in December, including an end to one-way attorney fees and assignments of benefits in property claims, Florida lawmakers have said more is needed to bring the state’s overheated litigation environment back into balance.

“Floridians know. They can tell by the number of insurance companies going bankrupt and fleeing the state and they can tell by their insurance premiums that there’s something amiss in the legal climate here,” Gregory said at the news conference, available on the Florida Channel website.


The bill would make a number of changes to litigation rules and would extend the ban on one-way attorney fees to automobile and liability insurance claims and to personal injury claims. The details can be seen here.

Several trial lawyers and House Democrats have said the bill will make it difficult for injured parties to find attorneys to represent them and will make it easier for corporations to avoid penalties for negligent acts, which will disincentivize needed safety improvements.

Previous insurance reform bills, approved during two special sessions last year, were drafted by legislative leaders and the governor’s office just days before the sessions began. The measures sailed through both chambers quickly, virtually unchanged.

Sponsored by Florida Surplus Lines Service Office (FSLSO)

But Renner said this time may be a little different.

He stressed that the final form of HB 837 will allow legitimate lawsuits to move forward and injured people will be able to collect damages when defendants have been negligent. But the measure will remove the rewards for “garbage” litigation, he said at the press conference.

Top photo: Renner at the special session in December (AP Photo/Phil Sears)