Victor E. Schwartz & Cary Silverman
Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.
Adjunct Scholars, The James Madison Institute
Read the full Policy Brief: “Strengthening Florida’s Civil Justice System: Lawmakers Should Build on a Decade of Progress”
EXCERPT: Encouraging economic growth requires, among other elements, a fair civil justice system. Liability exposure is a significant factor when employers decide whether to expand their businesses in a state, investing in new facilities or hiring more employees. Doctors express their confidence in where they locate their practices, with new doctors drawn to areas that have reasonable laws and affordable malpractice insurance premiums.Unfortunately, Florida is perceived as having among the most unfavorable litigation climates. A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey of state litigation environments placed Florida among the ten worst states. The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) listed South Florida, which many view as the most litigious area of the state, as a Judicial Hellholes for nearly a decade.The good news is that the Sunshine State is making significant progress addressing this situation, making the state more welcoming for businesses. Yet, some areas of Florida law remain totally out of the mainstream, such as its lax standard for admission of expert testimony. Damages in Florida can be excessive, especially when jurors must base their awards on billed rates for medical expenses that greatly exceed the amount the patient, or an insurer, actually paid. Other laws unfairly impose liability, such as a “bad faith” law that punishes insurers even when they act in good faith. There is unfair pressure to settle baseless claims. The result is Floridians pay more for insurance.
Although the healthcare liability environment has improved since the state hit rock bottom about a decade ago, there is more that can be done to make the state welcoming to doctors and protect the availability and affordability of medical care.